When he was announced as Brazil’s new Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ernesto Araújo kicked up quite a fuss. Curious citizens quickly took to their search engines to find out more about the previously unknown diplomat and their efforts were rewarded with Metapolítica 17, Mr. Araújo’s personal blog. In the About page, the new chancellor declares he wants to “help free Brazil and the world from globalist ideology,” which he defines as economic globalization “piloted by cultural Marxism.”
This was less of a sign of things to come, and rather a huge spoiler, painted in massive letters on the walls of Brazil’s foreign affairs office.
Just over a week in office, Ernesto Araújo has made his first big move to defeat “cultural Marxism” by withdrawing Brazil from the United Nations Global Compact for Migration, signed by 164 countries in December of last year.
As soon as Brazil signed the document, in what was one of Michel Temer’s last acts as president, Mr. Araújo and current president Jair Bolsonaro promised that they would leave the pact on taking office. On Tuesday evening, this came to fruition, with the chancellor sending a telegram to his diplomats, telling them to inform the United Nations that Brazil would no longer be part of the agreement.
On Twitter, which has become somewhat of a de facto Federal Register for the new president, Jair Bolsonaro celebrated the move. “Brazil has the sovereignty to decide whether or not it accepts migrants,” he declared, also stating that anyone moving to Brazil “must sing our anthem and respect our culture.”
Ernesto Araújo followed the president by using the argument of sovereignty, having said back in December that each country should determine its own policies and that the pact was “inadequate” in dealing with the issue.
What does the United Nations Global Compact for Migration say?
The sovereignty argument is a misnomer, as the United Nations migration pact is not enforceable by law and allows each signatory to establish its own immigration policies. The objective of the agreement is to increase international cooperation on the issue, as well as establish a set of referential guidelines for the construction of migration legislation.
Among the main suggestions of the pact is that irregular migrants not be subject to immediate deportation, rather having each case analyzed individually, with the migrant being offered access to legal counsel, health care and information. The agreement seeks to gather and use data in order to create evidence-based migration policies, as well as minimizing adverse factors that cause people to leave their country of origin, and increase the availability of pathways for regular migration.
164 countries signed the pact, including Brazil, but many nations—who happen to be ruled by right-wing nationalist governments allied to Jair Bolsonaro—refused. The most prominent was the United States, but Chile, Italy, Israel, Australia, Hungary, Poland, and Austria also did not sign. Their justifications for not doing so either follow the arguments of Messrs. Bolsonaro and Araújo to the letter—erroneously claiming that the pact harms national sovereignty—or, in the case of Hungary and Poland, it is suggested that the agreement will encourage illegal migration.
While many of the European nations who rejected the pact have recently felt the full effects of the migration crisis in that continent, this has not been the case in Brazil. Though traditionally a country of immigrants, official estimates put Brazil’s current immigrant population at just 750,000 people. Meanwhile, around 3.4 million Brazilians are living abroad, many of them under irregular conditions.
Adhering to the migration pact would offer support to this Brazilian diaspora around the world, and considering the number of immigrants in the country—94,000 moved to Brazil in 2018, while 252,000 left—the decision to withdraw is baffling.
Brazilians are also among the nationalities who suffer the most with migration barriers. The number of Brazilian citizens who were turned away at European borders increased by 50 percent in the last year
The Roraima Question
Though Brazil has faced nothing like the European migrant crisis, that is not to say it has not had recent issues with its borders. The current refugee crisis in the northern state of Roraima certainly had some influence on Brazil’s decision to pull out of the United Nations pact.
Fleeing adverse conditions in their crisis-ridden home country, thousands of Venezuelan migrants flooded across the Brazilian border last year, with the vast majority of them ending up in Roraima—one of the country’s worst-prepared states and which is currently on the verge of collapse.
During the election campaign, there were concerns about the measures Jair Bolsonaro would take to combat the crisis once in office. Though he has never been in favor of closing the border completely, he has discussed the idea of building refugee camps in Roraima. The newly elected governor of the state, Antonio Denarium (a member of Mr. Bolsonaro’s Social Liberal Party), is in favor of closing the border, but the president is unlikely to change his mind on the subject.
It is still unclear, however, exactly what measures the new government will employ in Roraima. Administration experts are set to visit the region next week.