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Brazilian Foreign Policy: Actors and Institutions

In this next section we will discuss Brazil's foreign policy. As we mentioned earlier, Brazil is unique among its neighbors, representing roughly half of the continent physically, economically, and in population, it is also the only nation in South America who is a major world player outside the region.[1] This fact is in large part due to its professional diplomatic service and the clear articulation of national foreign policy. Accordingly, any discussion of Brazil's current foreign policy must take into consideration its relevant traditions. We will ask the same three questions in this section as we used in the last section on Argentina: 1) Who are the relevant actors in the creation of national foreign policy and what structures do they operate within? 2) What are the relevant historic foreign policies? 3) What is the current foreign policy?

1) Who are the relevant actors in the creation of Brazil's national foreign policy and what structures do they operate within?

Brazil is a federal republic with 26 states and one federal district. Its most recent Constitution of 1988 creates a division of power between an Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branch. The executive has the authority to appoint ministers and conduct foreign policy but is limited by Congressional review.[2] On national defense issues the president is obligated to consult with the Council of the Republic[3] and the National Defense Council,[4] and the Congress must authorize declarations of war. The Congress has the sole authority to supervise and control foreign trade but its exercise is controlled by the Minister of Finance, a presidential appointee.[5] The Congress also has the final say, "to decide conclusively on international treaties, agreements or international acts which result in charges or commitments that go against the national property.[6]

The Constitution also stipulates the principles that govern international relations in Article 4, these are: "national independence; prevalence of human rights; self-determination of the peoples; non-intervention; equality among the States; defense of peace; peaceful settlement of conflicts; repudiation of terrorism and racism; cooperation among peoples for the progress of mankind; granting of political asylum." Finally, the Constitution dictates that Brazil shall "seek the economic, political, social and cultural integration of the peoples of Latin America."[7]

In practice most of Brazil's foreign policy is decided by the President and his cabinet. There are 30 members of the President's cabinet, including 23 Ministries and seven other cabinet level offices. Foreign policy is largely concentrated in the Ministry of External Relations which has the responsibility of "advising the President of the Republic of Brazil on the formulation and execution of Brazilian foreign policy,"[8] but it shares some foreign policy responsibilities with the Ministry of Finance and Defense. The appointment of cabinet ministers has traditionally been used to allow the president to form a working coalition of the major political parties to help pass executive sponsored legislation.[9] The President of Brazil is Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. He was first elected in 2002 and won reelection in 2006. He is one of the founding members of the Partido dos Trabalhadores (Worker's Party) and a longtime labor leader.

Public opinion does not play as important a role in the articulation of foreign policy in Brazil as it does in Argentina, however, public and private interest groups still play an influential role in Brazilian politics. One of the strongest interest groups in Brazil is the Sāo Paolo State Federation of Industries (FIESP), a business federation that represents almost half of the nation's industry. The group is so influential that they are normally consulted by the president when he selects the finance and planning ministers, they are also consulted on important matters of the economy.[10] Other strong labor unions include the General Federation of Workers (CGT) and the Central Union of Workers (CUT) founded in part by Brazil's current President Lula. All of these trade unions are capable of exerting influence on policy decisions on a national level. Other important interest groups include the banking sector, the public employees, the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (Landless Movement), the fazendeiros (landowners), student and religious groups.[11]

By Nathan Gill – Southern Affairs

Related Articles
Brazilian Foreign Policy: Traditions
Brazilian Foreign Policy: 2008

[1] See Chapter 3 Brazilian Hegemony. [2] Art. 48 of the Brazilian Constitution establishes that the National Congress has the authority to decide issues related to "national, regional and sectorial plans and programmes of development," "boundaries of the national territory, air and maritime space and property of the Union," " to decide conclusively on international treaties, agreements or international acts which result in charges or commitments that go against the national property and to authorize the President of the Republic to declare war, to make peace and to permit foreign forces to pass through the national territory or remain therein temporarily, with the exception of the cases provided by a supplementary law." [3] Article 89 of the Brazilian Constitution establishes the Council of the Republic, "a higher body for consultation by the President of the Republic, and its members are: the Vice-President of the Republic; the President of the Chamber of Deputies; the President of the Federal Senate; the majority and the minority leaders in the Chamber of Deputies; the majority and the minority leaders in the Federal Senate; the Minister of Justice; six born Brazilian citizens, with over thirty-five years of age, two of which appointed by the President of the Republic, two elected by the Federal Senate and two elected by the Chamber of Deputies, all with a term of office of three years, the re-appointment being prohibited." [4] Article 91 of the Brazilian Constitution establishes the National Defense Council, a consultation body of the President of the Republic on matters related to national sovereignty and the defense of the democratic state, and the following participate in it as natural members: the Vice-President of the Republic; the President of the Chamber of Deputies; the President of the Federal Senate; the Minister of Justice; the Minister of Defense; the Minister of External Relations; the Minister of Planning; the Commanders of the Navy, Army and Air Force. [5] Art 237 of the Brazilian Constitution. [6] Art. 49 of the Brazilian Constitution. [7] Art. 4 of the Brazilian Constitution. [8] Ministry of External Relations website. 10 Apr. 2008 . [9] Vanden and Prevost: 501. [10] Ibid: 504. [11] Ibid:506.


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