Explaining Brazil #182: Bad Neighbor policy

President Jair Bolsonaro's demeanor has made Brazil's South American neighbors hit the pause button on multilateral initiatives. That could have terrible consequences for the region

As multiple left-leaning leaders win elections around Latin America, Brazilian President Bolsonaro is refusing to show up to their inauguration ceremonies, a move that could undermine Brazil’s position as a regional power. He has already said he will be a no-show at Gabriel Boric’s inauguration in Chile, an important neighbor, and Xiomara Castro’s, in Honduras.

Since taking office at the start of 2019, Mr. Bolsonaro has only turned up to two inauguration ceremonies, those of Ecuador’s Guillermo Lasso and Luis Lacalle Pou in Uruguay: both right-leaning leaders.

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  • Guilherme Casarões holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of São Paulo. He is the deputy coordinator of the Public Administration School at think tank Fundação Getulio Vargas, and has recently launched the Observatory of the Extreme Right, a project to monitor the behavior of extremist groups in the political arena.

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Background reading:

  • Brazil’s Foreign Affairs Ministry shelved a formal statement congratulating leftist Gabriel Boric for his electoral win in Chile, as Mr. Bolsonaro was not pleased by the results. The Brazilian president didn’t hide his preference for far-right runner-up José Antonio Kast, with whom his family has entertained relations.
  • Under pressure from China and agribusiness interests in Congress – and growing global concern over President Bolsonaro’s own behavior – Brazil has made a foreign policy about-face, shelving its pro-democracy agenda in Latin America.
  • President Jair Bolsonaro has become a diplomatic pariah. When U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited South America in October 2020, he didn’t include a stop in Brazil on his itinerary.
  • While Brazil withdraws from its position as a regional power, Russia is quietly making moves to enlarge its influence in Latin America, reporter Lucas Berti shows. China is also making its moves, mainly through vaccine diplomacy.

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