Dilma Rousseff’s, Brazil’s president-elect, has confirmed president Lula’s international affairs special advisor Marco Aurélio Garcia in his post, another clear signal that the incoming administration wants to continue with the “good neighbor” policy towards Latin America and such organizations as Mercosur and UNASUR.
Later this week Rousseff is expected to make public the name of who will succeed Foreign Affairs minister Celso Amorim, who together with Garcia were the architects of Lula’s regional policy in support of Mercosur and the Venezuela of Hugo Chavez, both much questioned by business and opposition circles from São Paulo.
However since Garcia not only helped to design foreign policy but was also a coordinator of president-elect Rousseff and the ruling Workers Party electoral campaigns, he has also been tasked in helping ensuring a close relation with the party’s structures and implementing the new administration’s program.
A professor in political science and philosophy Garcia was exiled in Chile and France and on his return to Brazil helped Lula to found the Workers Party and has since been one of his closest advisors. He has also held the main posts in the Workers party particularly in rough times when most of its leaders had to resign exposed by corruption allegations.
Garcia is credited with being the man that managed to position Brazil close to Venezuela, the United States and even Iran, and having Lula recognized as a first class international negotiator and in the words of President Obama, “the world’s most famous politician.”
As to the coming administration’s prospects, Garcia says that Rousseff takes off with certain advantages over Lula’s experience eight years ago: an economy growing strongly and a full program of infrastructure projects, many of which she helped create and coordinate.
However Rousseff will also face international challenges non existent then, although with a lesser incidence on Brazil’s economy compared to other countries.
Garcia described Rousseff as a person of great political integrity, very much committed to the ruling Workers party’s ideas; a person who can get things done and has an extraordinary work capacity besides the fact that a woman president is a big change for Brazilian public opinion and the political system.
“Politics are under an intense depreciation process in the world, and so this renovation idea becomes a very important element,” points out Garcia.
Asked about Lula’s long shadow over the incoming administration Garcia was pragmatic: the outgoing president already has his own agenda of activities in the region and in Africa once he steps down. “Besides for those who are accustomed to be in power, eight years is not much, but for those who have spent most of their political life in the opposition, eight years is an eternity.”
As to some of the main objectives of the Rousseff administration, (as was promised during the campaign) one of them will be to eliminate extreme, absolute poverty.
“We managed to become the world’s eighth economy but ranked rock bottom regarding income distribution. What is the use of a rich country full of paupers and hungry people? Therefore we will continue along the path of that policy with such programs as Bolsa Família (Family Allowance) (free distribution of basic food items which lifted millions from abject poverty); the very successful plan to finance family farming from which most of fresh vegetables and produce comes and a policy of increasing the minimum wage above inflation, that leads to positive social inclusion results.”
Relations with Washington can always improve, “they have been correct, and have been through difficult moments.” Garcia mentioned three cases, Lula had just taken office when the Iraq conflict broke out and he tried to coordinate with Latin American countries, France, Germany, Russia, a way out to avoid the invasion.
Then came the second problem: in Mar del Plata during the all Americas summit conference when then Argentine president Nestor Kirchner and Lula scuttled the US Free Trade of the Americas Association, FTAA, a dear project for Washington’s diplomacy.
And finally when Brazil with Turkey worked out a proposal for the Iranian uranium enrichment problem: the plan was for Teheran to have the uranium enriched in other countries with the Teheran government commitment to give up the possible manufacturing of nuclear weapons and allow scientific inspections and controls.
“The US reaction was: this is a premier league issue, get out, but that is not our perception: the Middle East, Palestine, Iran, are all problems that threaten collective security and we all must take position,” explained Garcia who added to the list differences over the Honduras events.
“The first US reaction was correct, but it did not use its influence for a different solution to the problem. Anyhow Latin America and the US are condemned to live side by side, we have a long tradition of relations so we must make it a point to have a good civilized relation with the United States.”
As to human rights, Brazil is not interested in becoming an international certification agency, but all countries have human rights problems and “we only have to look at our jails or death squads,” but Brazil is not hypocrite about the issue or indifferent, “we apply discreet, low key diplomacy which many times is far more effective that noisy diplomacy.”
Finally regarding Argentina and the “strategic alliance,” Garcia argued that productive integration in manufacturing is essential: in pharmaceuticals Argentina is ahead of Brazil; in the auto-parts industry both countries must work for a greater nationalization of the sector as well as in the naval industry for the construction of vessels.
“Not only Argentina but all countries in the region that have capacity or interest in building ships and rigs must join. Oil production has become a huge industrial project and a good example of complementation and cooperation,” underlined Garcia.