Dilma Rousseff and the World: A Review of Her Diplomatic Strategy

Seminar Paper 2012 21 Pages

Politics - International Politics - Region: Middle- and South America


Nora Görne


UK English

27 July 2012

Dilma Rousseff and the World: A Review ofHer Diplomatic Strategy

Since almost 19 months, Brazil has a new president: Dilma Rousseff, the first woman to take office and the first time that the president is not a candidate from the opposition to the former government. Her success is mainly attributed to the fact that Dilma, Lula da Silva’s former cabinet chef, was advertised as “candidate of the Lulism” (de Carvalho Cruz Pires, 2011,p. 1) who could not run a third consecutive time himself due to legislation (“Lula da Silva”, 2011). Reports supposed first that Dilma would merely be an “interim president” till Lula could run again for elections in2014 (Souza, 2011,p. 87). But soon, Dilma reached popularity rates of 77% which is even higher than the rates of Lula in his second year of presidency (Comenalli, 2012) who once has been called “the most popular politician on earth” by Barack Obama (“Obama: Lula is”, 2009). Even though several reports point out that while essentially sticking to the main points ofher predecessor (Sader 2011, Löwy 2012) Dilma managed to step out ofLula’s shadow (Bryson 2011). However, a thorough analysis of her first 19 months is still missing. By examining her stand to various global issues and her diplomatic strategy, the following will discuss Dilma's role in foreign affairs, especially her standpoint in comparison to her predecessor Lula. The retrospective on Lula is especially important when considering the statement of Richard Bourne who points out that in the presidential constitutional republic of Brazil, its citizens align themselves much more with a candidate than with a party (2008, p.213). Before going into achievements and plans in foreign policy, a short historical overview of Dilma's political career and her visions, both nationally and internationally, will be given. Neither the comparison nor the review of Dilma's foreign policy agenda is meant to be all-encompassing but should rather be seen as an exploration ofDilma's first 19 months as President with the aim to answer the question what other nations can expect from Dilma for the rest ofher term.

64 years old Dilma Vana Rousseff was born as the child of the Bulgarian lawyer and entrepreneur Petar Rousseff and the Brazilian teacher Dilma Jane da Silva, an upper-middle class family. Probably due to his connection to the Bulgarian Communist Party, Petar left Bulgaria in 1929 (“Who is who”, 2010). His daughter Dilma was not any less revolutionary and started becoming involved in protests against the Brazilian military regime at the age of 16. In 1970 she wasjailed for almost three years for her political activism and was tortured (Bourne, 2008, p. 44). Later, the economics student became one of the founders of the PDT (Democratic Labour Party) and actively supported the first presidential campaign in the democratic transition. From 1993 onwards, Dilma held the position of State Secretary of Mines, Energy and Communications. Under Lula she became the Minister ofMines and Energy in 2002.. She stayed part of the Lula administration as Chief of Staff to the President ofBrazil from 2005 till 2010 when she became the presidential candidate of the PT (Partido dos Trabalhadores, Worker's Party). On 31 October 2010 she was directly elected in the run­off with 56% votes against José Serra, the candidate from the PSDB (Brazilian Social Democracy Party; “Presidency ofRepublic”).

Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva (1945-) on the other hand comes from a poor family and had formal education only till the 4th grade. He already started working as a child in a dry cleaning shop, a warehouse and later at a factory where he completed a course as a mechanic and lathe operator. His political involvement started in Brazil's Trade Union Movement in the 60s of which he became the head in 1975. Within the labour movement he helped organizing major strikes for which he wasjailed for one month although he did not get tortured like Dilma did (Bourne, 2008, p. 44). In 1980 he became the leader of the newly founded PT which quickly gained a lot of members (in 1982 the PT had around 400,000 members) and slowly moved away from the initial far-left wing agenda. After running several times unsuccessfully, Lula became president in 2003 and completed two consecutive terms (“Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva”).

During the elections it was noted that Dilma was mainly missing Lula's charisma and seen more as an iron lady (“Brazil swears in”, 2011) and an erudite technocrat. As Richard Bourne points out, Lula relied much more on his instincts than on knowledge and still personally identifies with what he calls the “peasantry” (2008, p, 211). But even though the political careers and personalities ofLula and Dilma differ, they have similar visions. Lula's two main goals were to eliminate extreme poverty and social inequality in Brazil and create fair conditions for workers (Bourne, 2008, p. 210). Dilma does not have such a connection to the worker's movement as Lula but in her inauguration speech she also committed herself to a similar goal as Lula did: To end extreme poverty in Brazil, protect and take care of the weakest but be a president for all citizens. The second highest priority ofDilma is the reform of the public health system (Sistema Unico de Saúde or SUS) (“Address ofPresident Dilma Rousseff: Inaugural speech to the Brazilian public”, 2011) which has already been introduced more than 20 years ago (Gómez, 2009) and was praised by Lula for its quality (Phillips, 2011) although it has received much criticism (“An injection of reality”, 2011).

Additionally to that, Dilma emphasised that she wants to honour Brazilian women (“Address ofPresident Dilma Rousseff: Inaugural speech to Congress”, 2011). Her commitment to women's rights is already shown in the appointment of a record number of10 female ministers out of 39 in her Cabinet (Hennigan, 2012). Furthermore, as corruption particularly became a problem at the end of Lula's first term, both Dilma and Lula encouraged various campaigns like “Operation Clean Hand” (Bourne, 2008, p.216) to end corrupt practices in Brazilian politics. When comparing the visions ofDilma and Lula, there are few differences, and Dilma also committed herself in her inauguration speech to Congress to continuing what Lula started while she also emphasised that it is necessary to “include new tools and new values.” With this she alludes to the problem ofhigh inflation in Brazil and explicates that among others she plans to modernise the tax system, push export and regional development, create new energy resources and improve social services, particularly health, education and security.(“Address ofPresident Dilma Rousseff: Inaugural speech to Congress”, 2011).

Already Lula realized quickly after getting in office that the power of international influence is not to be underestimated, so that he had to take some step backs in various policy areas (Amaral, Kingstone & Krieckhaus, 2009, p. 157f). Nevertheless, he managed to come closer to his goal to end extreme poverty by establishing the Bolsa Familia programme which conditionally supports approximately 13 million poor households (“Bolsa Familia”, 2012). This social programme still gets support from Dilma as she announced that even though she wants to cut government spendings to fight inflation she will leave the Bolsa Familia untouched (“How tough”, 2011). Dilma's first own important contribution to solving social problems is the launch of the Rede Cegonha (Stork Network) in March 2011 to help new mothers and their babies and she promised to build 500 new care facilities by2014 (Sader, 2011,p. 32). As Emir Sader states “Rousseff government's greatest achievement is already its capacity to expand the potential of the government” (2011, p. 32), so to manage a multi-party coalition while fighting against corruption (“Dilma tries to”, 2011) and continue with the reforms set forth by Lula and create possibilities to expand on them. Lastly, Dilma set her own mark by the creation of a Truth Commission which should investigate abuses committed by the military dictatorship (NACLA, 2011,p. 32; “Brazil's Dilma Rousseff approves”, 2011), showing her commitment to the protection ofHuman Rights which will come back in foreign affairs.

Before examining the diplomatic strategy of Brazil, short attention will be given to Dilma's environmental policies because these get in Brazil much more global attention than in other countries. In April 2012, Dilma received both nationally as well as internationally much criticism when the congress approved major changes to the Forest Code, a bill which first has been introduced in 1965 and requires farmers to preserve between 20% to 80% of forest depending on the region. Influenced by agribusiness organizations like the Uniao Democràtica Ruralista (Democratic Association ofRuralists; “Environmental law”, 2012) alterations would have included among others an amnesty from fines for farmers that illegally cleared forest areas and lessened the requirements ofhow much forest must be conserved (“Brazil's Congress approves controversial forest law”, 2012). Environmentalists from Brazil and abroad demanded Dilma to veto the bill, also in view of the Rio +20, which she partially did on 28 May 2012. This compromise was suggested by Rubens Ricupero, former Brazilian Minister of the Environment and Amazonian Affairs, as the legislation makes now more concessions for small farmers . However, Dilma still received much criticism as the changes weakened the protection for forest close to river areas (“Environmental law”, 2012). As Hurwitz notes in the NACLA Report on the Americas “the [proposed] changes to the Forest Code, however, arejust the tip of the iceberg—the latest in a series of environmental decisions under the Rousseff administration that exemplify a marked shift away from environmental protection in an effort to further spur development and economic growth” (2012, p. 17). Dilma is especially in favour of expanding the hydroelectric industry with the construction of over 32 more dams in the Amazon, in particular the Belo Monte Dam, the third biggest hydroelectric dam in the world (Hurwitz, 2012, p. 19). Overall Dilma's plans however can be see as a continuation ofLula's agenda: For instance already in June 2010 Lula signed an agreement to build 6 hydroelectric dams in the Peruvian Amazon which caused much criticism as they would threaten local indigenous communities and cause deforestation (“Outrage over Peru-Brazil energy agreement”, 2010). It remains to be seen in how far Dilma will still comply with her promise in her inauguration speech that Brazil can “show the world that it is possible for a country to grow rapidly without destroying the environment” (Messenger, 2011).

Moving on to the diplomatic strategy of Dilma which shall be the focus of this paper, the review of the presidential trips that she did till now already gives a good overview where her focus lies:

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 1 : Map of Presidential Trips Made by Dilma Rousseff as President of Brazil. Adapted and updated from “List of presidential trips made by Dilma Rousseff” by Limongi, 2012, March 26. Retrieved from http://commons.wikimedia.org (information based on “Viagens internacionais da Presidenta da República/2011”, 2011 and “Viagens internacionais da Presidenta da República/2012”, 2012)

It can be seen that there is an emphasis on Latin America, the United States, Europe, and other emerging economies, like the other (B)RICS and Turkey. This is consistent with Dilma's inauguration speech to the Congress in which she noted that she wishes to strengthen relationsIwithIregionsIandIcountriesIallIoverItheIglobe,IwithIaIfocusIonIdevelopingIcountries. Furthermore, she pointed out that she wants to connect the economic, social and political activities of Brazil more with other Latin-American countries, in particular putting further efforts in the work ofMercosul (or Mercosur; Southern Common Market) and Unasul (or Unasur, Union of South American Nations). As an overall goal, Dilma emphasised that she wants to adhere to the “classic values” of Brazilian diplomacy: “foster peace, to respect the principle of non-intervention, to defend human rights and to strengthen multilateralism” (“Address ofPresident Dilma Rousseff: Inaugural speech to Congress”, 2011). This is also mirrored in the report of the the 4th National Congress of the PT from 19 February 2010in which it is stated that foreign policy under the Dilma government will focus on the integration ofMercosul, the institutionalization ofUnasul, the strengthening of the South American Defence Council (SADC) and the Council To Combat Drug Trafficking, the conclusion of the Doha round and the continuation of the participation in the IBAS and BRIC fora. Furthermore, the PT aims to foster the relationship with the United States, Japan and the European Union, modernize the U.N. and help to stabilize regions such as the Middle East and Haiti (Sader and Garcia, 2010, p. 111-113).

In the following, first the relationship between Brazil and the United States will be discussed. Afterwards, light will be shed on the relationships between Brazil and Europe, Brazil and other Latin-American countries and Brazil and other developing countries, especially the other (B)RICS. Lastly, Brazil's role in multilateral, global settings such as the G20 , the United Nations and the U.N. Security Council will be examined. For the last point, Dilma's standpoint to the Human Rights situation in Iran is important and therefore the relationship between these two countries will be given short attention as well.

During Lula's administration, the U.S.-Brazilian relationship was rather difficult as Lula was suspicious ofU.S. domination which he showed by for example blocking the creation of the FTAA, a Free Trade Area of the Americas. However, the United States were still the third important trade partner under the Lula Administration (Sader, 2011,p. 32). Dilma on the other hand showed already at the beginning ofher term that she is much more open for U.S.-Brazilian cooperation (Bryson 2011): On 9 April 2012 Dilma paid a visit to Barack Obama to discuss the relationship between the two countries. They both agreed on pushing the bilateral partnership with an emphasis on science, education and technology, especially in regard to sustainable energy and environment, economic competitiveness, trade and investment in areas such as deep-sea soil exploration, biotechnology and renewable energy. Moreover, they both emphasised cooperation for two coming world scale events, the FIFA World Cup 2014 and the Olympic and Paralympic Games 2016 in Brazil (Joint statement by President Barack Obama and President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, 2012, p. 1), especially in regard to investment in infrastructure.



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University of Amsterdam – CEDLA
Brazil Dilma Rousseff Lula Lula da Silva Latin America Brasilien Lateinamerika BRICS Mercosul Unasul Mercosol Unasol CPLP IMF foreign policy U.N. Security Council PT Partido dos Trabalhadores diplomatic strategy



Title: Dilma Rousseff and the World: A Review of Her Diplomatic Strategy