Brazil’s Foreign Minister is more Bolsonarista than the president himself

. Jun 03, 2020
Anti-globalist, anti-China: Brazil's Foreign Minister Ernesto Araújo. Photo: Carolina Antunes/PR Anti-globalist, anti-China: Brazil's Foreign Minister Ernesto Araújo. Photo: Carolina Antunes/PR

When entering the world of diplomacy as a fresh-faced graduate in 1991, Ernesto Araújo could never have dreamed of one day making his way to the top of the chain and leading Brazil’s Foreign Affairs Ministry. In November 2018, after a little over two decades flying under the radar, holding middling offices within Brazil’s diplomatic structure, newly elected President Jair Bolsonaro made the surprising announcement that the “brilliant intellectual” Mr. Araújo would be his new foreign minister.

Despite never commanding an embassy or even gathering the respect of his diplomatic peers, Ernesto Araújo was suddenly parachuted into Brazil’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, being tasked with steering international issues during Mr. Bolsonaro’s proposed “regeneration period.”

While many of Mr. Bolsonaro’s other cabinet appointees were already famous — or infamous — public figures, his new Foreign Affairs Ministry was a completely unknown quantity, causing many pundits and analysts to turn to search engines to find out “who is Ernesto Araújo?”

</p> <p>Atop the search results was Mr. Araújo&#8217;s personal blog, <a href="">Metapolítica 17</a>, by way of which the new foreign minister aimed to show people exactly who he was. On the blog&#8217;s About page, Mr. Araújo laid out his <em>raison d&#8217;être</em> in direct and cutting terms:</p> <p>&#8220;I&#8217;m Ernesto Araújo. I have worked for 28 years in public service and I am also a writer. I want Brazil and the world to be free from globalist ideology.&#8221;</p> <h2>The Anti-Globalist Foreign Minister</h2> <p>According to Mr. Araújo&#8217;s writings and public statements, &#8220;globalism&#8221; is the root of all society&#8217;s ills. Framed as a left-wing plot, it is propagated by what he calls &#8220;cultural Marxism,&#8221; an antisemitic right-wing conspiracy echoed by figures such as Canadian psychology professor Jordan Peterson and Norwegian mass shooter Anders Breivik.</p> <p>Days before being officially appointed, in October, Mr. Araújo wrote a post on his blog entitled <a href="">“I came for free,&#8221;</a> which reads more like a job application for the Bolsonaro government than any coherent critique. The essay had everything a future cabinet member in the far-right administration would need, calling the center-left Workers&#8217; Party a “Totalitarian Project” that &#8220;hates human beings,&#8221; criticizing them for criminalizing God, people’s faith, patriotism, and WhatsApp Messenger.&nbsp;</p> <p>Once in government, he transplanted his far-right crusade against cultural Marxism into Brazil&#8217;s Foreign Affairs Ministry, <a href="">isolating the country</a> on the international stage.</p> <p>While his personal blog was left largely untouched after taking office, he recently found time during the Covid-19 pandemic to post a <a href="">2,800-word screed</a> on Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek&#8217;s latest book on the coronavirus. Referring to Sars-CoV-2 as the &#8220;commie virus,&#8221; he likened social isolation measures to Nazi Germany concentration camps, drawing rage from <a href="">Jewish organizations around the world</a>.&nbsp;</p> <div id="buzzsprout-player-1766182"></div> <script src=";player=small" type="text/javascript" charset="utf-8"></script> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>A far-right metamorphosis</h2> <p>Mr. Araújo’s personal blog is the best source to understand his view on foreign policy, but it does not accurately represent the opinions he held over the majority of the diplomat&#8217;s career.&nbsp;</p> <p>Unlike his predecessors at the head of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Mr. Araújo did not enter the job as a prestigious academic or former ambassador. Instead, he only became a first-class diplomat in 2018, when holding the title of the United States, Canada, and Inter-American Affairs (DECIN) director.&nbsp;</p> <p>Previous incarnations of Ernesto Araújo&#8217;s foreign policy stances differ greatly from the radical conservative antagonism he exudes today. In a 2007 article, entitled “<a href="">Mercosur &#8211; extra-regional negotiations</a>,” no such anti-leftist crusade can be seen. In fact, he is largely even-handed toward the government of then-President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, noting what he calls the &#8220;openly critical line of the private sector&#8221; toward Lula&#8217;s foreign policy.</p> <h2>Ernesto Araújo by his peers</h2> <p>On May 8, a number of former Foreign Affairs Ministers and ex-President Fernando Henrique Cardoso co-signed an article printed in Brazil&#8217;s major newspapers, criticizing the country&#8217;s foreign policy, without a single mention of Ernesto Araújo&#8217;s name.</p> <p>On Twitter, Mr. Araújo hit back at the article, calling the distinguished authors &#8220;the paladins of hypocrisy.&#8221;</p> <p>Among the authors was Rubens Ricupero, former Finance Minister and ex-Ambassador in Washington D.C. <strong>The Brazilian Report </strong>spoke to Mr. Ricupero about the current situation at the Foreign Affairs Ministry. You can read the main takes of this interview below:</p> <p><strong>Ernesto Araújo and the Covid-19 pandemic</strong></p> <blockquote class="wp-block-quote"><p><em>“In his blogs and articles, he is a person who has a very distorted perception of international reality. To start and be successful, any policy requires a correct version of reality. In the case of foreign policy, this also includes the international reality, in addition to that of the country itself. </em></p><p><em>And the truth is that Ernesto Araújo joins a wing of thought that has a very strange and eccentric view of that international reality. In a situation, as we have now, for example, where everyone understands the threat of the pandemic, Mr. Araújo sees it as a kind of conspiracy. Calling it the &#8220;commie virus&#8221; is a conspiratorial view of history.”</em></p></blockquote> <p><strong>Olavo de Carvalho and global warming denialism</strong></p> <blockquote class="wp-block-quote"><p><em>“His view is similar to that of [Jair Bolsonaro’s ideological guru] Olavo de Carvalho. Mr. Araújo behaves as if the current scenario is a campaign to exterminate what they call Judeo-Christian traditions and values. He also threatens multilateralism with his conspiratorial message. When Mr. Araújo talks about the United Nations, he accuses the organization of attacking those values.</em></p><p><em>According to his opinions, gender-related issues — such as sexual diversity and abortion, for example — are powered by ‘hidden forces.’ This also happens when he talks about climate change. [In 2019, </em><a href=""><em>Mr. Araújo denied the existence of global warming</em></a><em>]. The vision is not shared by anyone who has any serious position — not in academia, not among intellectuals, not in diplomacy. It is a marginal view. This corresponds to what the U.S. calls the ‘lunatic fringe.&#8217;”</em></p></blockquote> <p><strong>Brazil-China relations</strong></p> <blockquote class="wp-block-quote"><p><em>“Perhaps the most serious example is how things are gradually leading to a worsening </em><a href=""><em>relationship with China</em></a><em>. It is our main market and </em><a href=""><em>trading partner</em></a><em>. Even in the pandemic, in the first four months of 2020, the only countries to which Brazilian exports grew were China and other Asian nations.</em></p><p><em>And this [anti-China] behavior happens not only because of Mr. Ernesto’s statements. </em><a href=""><em>Other members of the government</em></a><em> always attack China.&#8221;</em>

Lucas Berti

Lucas Berti covers international affairs—specializing Latin American politics and markets. He has been published by Opera Mundi, Revista VIP, and The Intercept Brasil, among others.

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