Monthly Archives: November 2012

Zé Carioca turns 70

In the midst of World War Two, Walt Disney “discovered” Latin America at the instigation of the US government. In an effort to bind the region to the Allies Disney embarked on a series of animated shorts to make Latin Americans, and Brazilians (who provided critical naval and airbase facilities in the Northeast) feel part of the family. One of the stars of this effort was a little parrot named Zé Carioca, the embodiment of the Disney view of Rio de Janeiro. Zé pops up about halfway though this clip:

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Washington’s view of Brazil’s rise

One of Brazil’s most prescient foreign policy observers and analysts — Professor Matias Spektor from the Fundação Getulio Vargas university in Rio de Janeiro — has spent the last few weeks talking to policy-makers in Washington about Brazil’s rise. As Spektor explains in his latest column for the newspaper Folha de São Paulo, there is generally a favourable attitude in Washington to Brazil’s international rise, but tempered with four main concerns:

  1. While Brazil’s activism has put it on the international map, there are worries that this has come at the cost of questionable or even negative impacts on Brazil’s core issues — Mercosul, Unasul, G20, the WTO and the UN Security Council;
  2. Concrete investment in foreign policy resources is not keeping up with official ambitions. Observers in Washington do not understand why Brazil keeps opening embassies in Africa and the Caribbean when it lacks the personnel to staff them;
  3. Brazil is running into major resistance in its own neighbourhood and diplomatic investments in South America are not helping with Brazil’s wider ambitions;
  4. Brazil is actively advocating a world less controlled by the North Atlantic with a greater role for emerging countries, but it is not offering a practical vision for how this would work.

Spektor’s comments fit neatly into the debate currently going on under the surface in Brasília. Diplomats at Itamaraty continue to ring-fence foreign policy as a private preserve for their department. Political guidance remains weak with officials very reluctant to press president Dilma Rousseff for additional resources unless their project involves China or the BRICs. Moreover, traditional attitudes of ‘not wanting to impose’, which translates in practical terms into not wanting to absorb the costs of leading predominate. The bottom line appears to be that Brazil has arrived at the main decision tables of global governance, but having achieved its seat now needs to sort out what it wants to do. As Spektor notes, for Washington Brazil’s rise is welcome. It is just that there is uncertainty in what it will mean and if it will last without a clear vision in Brasília and concrete resources to back ambitions.

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Nuclear Power for Chile

Perhaps the greatest barrier to Chile’s rapid ascension to the ranks of leading small global economies is a lack of domestic energy resources. Lingering rancour over the end of the War of the Pacific (1879-1883) means that the nationalist voice in Bolivia blocks any exports of gas to heat the homes of Santiago. Argentina has repeatedly proven to be an unreliable energy integration partner, frequently shutting of trans-Andean gas supplies to meet domestic demand. Hydro projects are being developed, but demand still outstrips supply, even with the implementation of green energy sources like wind and solar.

It is thus not too much of a surprise to hear that Chile is again looking at building a nuclear power plant. According to UPI, Chilean Energy Undersecretary Sergio del Campo flagged this as a real possibility at a recent Australian-Chile Chamber of Commerce meeting. Others in government suggested that a plan for nuclear power development will not be ready until the end of the Piñera presidency, possibly in late 2014. Critics are worried about the frequent seismic activity in Chile and what this might mean for the safety of a mooted plant. Expect a rush of interest from the big international nuclear power companies seeking another contract in what is currently a rather stalled industry.



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Brazil-Australia relations explained by Aus Amb Brett Hackett

The Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has jumped on the You Tube bandwagon with a series of interviews with their ambassadors. The latest is with H E Brett Hackett, Australian Ambassador to Brazil. You can catch the interview here:


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