America and Brazil: Next Steps
In October 2013, Brazilian President Dilma Rouseff cancelled a state visit to Washington D.C. in light of the NSA scandal. Now, two years after the Brazilian president shunned her American counterpart, she is reported to be accepting a State visit this year, which will be the first time that a Brazilian leader has done so since 1995.
Brazil is in the midst of an economic and social crisis. Petrobras, the largest oil company in the country, has suffered massive economic losses as a corruption scandal continues to unravel. Now, the company is facing multiple international lawsuits from investors. President Rouseff herself is caught up in the scandal and has seen her approval ratings drop to 13%, while the percentage of the population in favor of her impeachment has risen to over 60%.
Yet, the White House has expressed an interest in tapping into Brazil’s economy, one that is 25% larger than Mexico’s. However, I find it hard to believe that the United States would want to align itself with Brazil now, when its unpopular government has become mired in a corruption scandal as the country’s economic prospects have taken a turn for the worse.
Not surprisingly, geopolitics is most likely at the heart of the United States’ untimely alliance with Brazil. On January 27, 2014, Cuba inaugurated a new port with Brazilian funding. This port was renovated after a massive investigation into a North Korean ship that was stopped in Panama carrying Cuban weapons. Now, the new Port Mariel is considered one of the most modernized ports in the Western hemisphere. As the United States rekindles relations with Cuba and Brazil, the U.S. is ensuring control of a port that might be used for the exportation of weapons to North Korea from Iran or for movement of goods within the Americas. By reconnecting with these nations, the U.S. can control the activities of Port Mariel.
Why else would the U.S. want to approach the populist leader of Brazil? Perhaps because a sizeable portion of the country has begun publically discussing the possibility of a military coup. The U.S. cannot afford another Venezuela as its neighbor, but it also cannot handle a military government running the second largest economy in the Americas. I see this as an opportunity for the United States to try and stabilize the political situation in Brazil. The United States wants to support a country that is friendly to foreign investment and can create strong trade ties.
What will happen with U.S.-Brazilian relations will become apparent in the next couple of weeks after the Seventh Summit of the Americas in Panama is over and President Obama meets with his Latin American counterparts? This is not the first attempt to bring the two countries into an equally-beneficial trade agreement, but now the stakes involve control of a downward-spiraling political situation as well.
- Isabella Schumann