Brazil: So Big and So Dumb

 Brazil: So Big and So 

Why did Argentina decide
to impose surtaxes on Brazilian products?
Because a little earlier China had done the same with regard to
soybeans. And Russia also acted like that à propos of beef.
To pay the interest of our debts, the Brazilian elephant is humiliated,
subjects itself to blackmail and, worse of all, it does not react.
by: Carlos

Brazil’s status in South America was defined in the 70s by Oscar Camilión,
Argentina’s ambassador in Brasília and one of the most competent Argentinean
politicians and diplomats: our country was a docile and asleep elephant, but
that could smash its neighbors when moving at night in bed.

Since then nothing changed.
We continue to be the loving, conciliatory, conscious-of-its-strength pachyderm.
What we cannot do is to become a dumb elephant.

Country Is Humiliated

In spite of everything,
of the sociologist (former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso) and of the
economic models, we have grown and we experienced progress. Since unemployment
and misery are not themes of our foreign policy, they are forgotten. What
we need today is to analyze our reactions in face of inadmissible foreign
aggressions, even for a pacific pachyderm.

To defend an industry
on its last legs Argentina has interrupted the import of Brazilian meat, household
appliances and fabrics. There’s no denying that they need to care for their
interests and avoid that the elephant even slumbering may crush them.

But the fact that they
acted unilaterally surpasses the limits of the most primary relationship between
our two nations. They then look for understanding or dialogue. They simply
barred the entrance of these products in their territory, imposing surtaxes.

Why did Buenos Aires act
like that? Because a little earlier China had done the same with regard to
the soy. And Russia also acted like that à propos of beef. Nobody tried
to dialogue and much less to give notice to the Brazilian government. There
was no phone calls exchanged between ministers and authorities. There was
not even an email.

In all these cases we
simply lowered our head, we resigned to the deleterious axiom that that’s
the way business is done. We only sent missions to the aggressors with the
goal of picking up the pieces. We negotiated in a subaltern position, exactly
what those who lost their respect for us had in mind.

Only a foolish person
would think about cutting our relations or declaring war on those who act
against us, but the elephant has the power to react. Even to retaliate. We
are no beggars; neither do we need alms in our commercial relationship.

The problem is in the
economic model. In this obstinate struggle to grow our exchange and boost
our primary surplus, with the sole intent of paying the interest of our debts.

For that reason, the elephant
"swallows toads," is humiliated, subjects itself to blackmail and,
worse of all, it does not react. With all due respect, it will soon get to
the point in which a retinue will be sent to Bangladesh or Gabon to try to
suspend the prohibition of our jaboticabas (Brazilian native grape-like
fruit) in their territories.

All for Interest

Has Argentina suspended
the import of Brazilian household appliances? Why not finance our industry
so that they can supply the domestic market with cheaper refrigerator and
television sets?

China does not want our
soybeans anymore? Let’s invest massively into the production of soy oil, which
is today unquestionably superior to diesel oil for moving trucks. We would
get less dependent on petroleum.

Is Russia rejecting Brazil’s
meat? What about finding a way so that workers earning minimum wage would
be able to eat at least one beefsteak a week?

At the bottom of this
humiliation rests our obscene economic model. Exporting is the solution, of
course, as long as we have limits. Never against our interests and our sovereignty,
however. We shouldn’t export to raise money to pay the abusive interests of
our debts, which contribute to speculation.

We talk about the impossibility
of alternatives in our economic policy because the world has become globalized.
This would be to accept the permanent domination of the stronger over the
weaker, based in a lie.

Are we globalized because
we can transfer our investment from Switzerland to the Jersey Island in a
matter of seconds? Our grandchildren are going to laugh at our arrogance when
they start bringing water from Venus or minerals from Mars.

With them yes the world
will become globalized. But still the grandchildren of our grandchildren will
laugh at them because they will be able to import throwaway brains from Andromeda
and the long life elixir from the Big Dipper.

Our troglodyte ancestors
believed they were globalized when they learned how to tame the fire and one
cave was able to communicate with another one through smoke signals and not
through the decibels produced by the throats of our grandparents.

Everything changes but
the honor, the sovereignty and the independence of individuals and nations.
They want to change the elephant. And to be sure they are succeeding.

Carlos Chagas writes for the Rio’s daily Tribuna da Imprensa and
is a representative of the Brazilian Press Association, in Brasília.
He welcomes your comments at

from the Portuguese by Arlindo Silva.

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