Monthly Archives: March 2013

Promising steps on the Brazil-Australia Strategic Partnership

ANCLAS’s Zuleika Arashiro writes:

On 20-21 March, the University of Melbourne and the Australian Embassy in Brazil, together with the Universidade de Sao Paulo (USP), held the first Brazil-Australia Dialogue in Sao Paulo. The Dialogue occurred a few months after Brazilian president Dilma Roussef and Prime Minister Julia Gillard signed the Brazil-Australia Strategic Partnership in June 2012. While there are undoubtedly challenges ahead to translate those official statements into concrete collaboration, the Dialogue marked the first concrete step towards a better mutual understanding of the two countries and, particularly, for research and policy collaboration.

With the financial support from the Australian Government’s Council on Australian Latin American Relations (COALAR), the Dialogue brought together high-level government representatives, business leaders and academics from Brazil and Australia for an intensive discussion day in which the main common theme driving various panel sessions was the challenge of conciliating economic growth with sustainability.

But what made the Dialogue a unique event was that it went beyond the usual gatherings for exchange of ideas to mark a formal commitment to build research collaboration between the two countries. The University of Melbourne signed Australia’s first agreement with the State of Sao Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP), the leading research funding body in Sao Paulo (see the agreement text here). Through this agreement, the two institutions committed to an initial 5-year collaboration under which each side will contribute up to $ 100,000/year each to promote joint research projects and exchange. At the same occasion, the University of Melbourne also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Universidade de Sao Paulo. With around 100,000 students, USP is the leading academic institution in Latin America and responds for the largest share of academic publications in the region.

This initiative captures well the still unexplored potential for engaging with Brazil as an equal partner. With the focus of the Brazilian Government on the internationalisation of its tertiary education and development of sciences and technology, there is now a large amount of government-funded scholarships for students and scholars, from undergraduate to postgraduate training, and academic international exchange. In addition to the most well-known program ‘Sciences without Borders’, which covers mainly scientific areas, institutions such as CAPES at the federal level, and FAPESP, at the state level in Sao Paulo, have been keen to promote research collaboration with funding reaching social sciences, applied research and policy issues.

One noticeable gap in the Dialogue was the lack of attention to social and political understanding between the two countries. Since much of the discussions passed through policy making, this was a critical gap. Still, the fact that there is a small window of opportunity open means that these areas too can come to the agenda. The question now is to know whether we are ready for a new level of partnership.

–Zuleika Arashiro

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Call for Brazilian leadership on small arms trafficking in South America

Professor Matias Spektor, Director of the International Relations Program at the Rio de Janeiro campus of the Fundação Getúlio Vargas University and current Rio Branco Visiting Chair at King’s College, University of London, has put forward a very interesting idea in his regular column in the leading Brazilian newspaper Folha de São Paulo. You can find the original column in Portuguese here. A quick Google translation is below. Bottom line — Spektor wants Brazil to step up and take leadership for controlling small arms trafficking in the region and end the ongoing civil war-like bloodbath caused by these illegally traded weapons. He’s got a point, and the Brazilian people might push the idea as we move to a presidential election in 2014 — a few years back Brazilians voted down a referendum proposal banning handguns precisely because they were terrified of the illegal weapons rife in certain areas of major cities.


Anti-Bullet (anti-ballistic) Diplomacy
Prof. Matias Spektor
Brazil had more homicides by firearms than Iraq or Afghanistan, Colombia or the United States, India or Pakistan. The data refers to 2010 show an average of four deaths per hour, or 108 per day. Victims have low education, are young and darker than white.

Works such as the Violence Map, Julio Jacobo Waiselfisz, publications and the Small Arms Survey, Viva Rio and Sou da Paz show that the problem has no easy solution because it is associated with the most stubborn dramas Brazilian inequality.

To reverse this ominous dynamic that resembles a civil war, foreign policy can make all the difference.

Over half of the 16 million firearms circulating in the country are not properly registered because they object to theft, diversion or smuggling. This illegal trade is regionalized, linking the Brazilian market weapons to neighboring Paraguay, Bolivia, Uruguay and Argentina.

Despite a modest recent progress, coordination between these countries is meager.

Only Brasília has a diplomatic force to discipline the region under the auspices of a project of collective responsibility.

Moreover, Brazil shares the rank of champion homicides by firearms in Central America and the Caribbean region where has enough clout to launch high-impact initiatives.

Firearms not just shred thousands of Brazilian families. Also hinder the ascension process of the country. After all, arguing that we have something useful to say about peace and stability in the world when statistics show that between 2004 and 2007, there were more Brazilian citizens shot dead than the sum of all 12 victims of the bloodiest conflicts of the world ? Here’s a radical idea.

Imagine if the President of the Republic created a task force with Foreign Ministry, Ministry of Defence and Federal Police to deal with the international dimensions of the problem.

The Brazilian ambassadors in South America would offer hefty packages of technical cooperation to local governments. Mercosur and Unasur would consequently training and standardization of procedures, especially in border areas. The BNDES continue helping the Brazilian industry of firearms to regionalize, but in exchange for broader and intelligent controls of which she would also benefit.

Dilma announce the initiative during the passing of Pope Francisco by Brazil, next June. Passionate about regional integration and obsessed with the eradication of poverty, the Pope would be a powerful and faithful ally of the cause.

When you do something, the Brazilian foreign policy would be acting in self-interest (unlocking the ascension process and building an environment of peace) and moral imperative (facing a horror in everyday life for the majority).

The current reality demands nothing less than a true ballistic diplomacy.

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2013 UNDP Human Development Report

Last week, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) administrator Helen Clark and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto launched the 2013 Human Development Report “The rise of the South: human progress in a diverse World”, during the visit of the Ms. Clark to Mexico.  It is not surprising that this announcement took place in the Mexican capital, since the report is particularly relevant to developing countries and especially to Latin American.

The study highlights the increasing participation of developing countries in trade and investment, and in consequence, the changes inflicted in the global economy, geopolitics and society. It also points out that the shift in the World’s balance of power has not been fully reflected in the current structure of international organisations.

According to the Report, the Human Development Index (HDI) for Latin America presents a general rising trend. Most of the countries in the region, with the exception of Haiti, are considered as medium income countries or above, as a result of better performance in life expectancy, education and GDI (gross domestic income) per capita (the three parameters measured by UNDP HDI). In the case of Mexico, its HDI rose from 0.605 in 1980 to 0.758 in 2012*, which takes the country to position 61 out of 183 countries, clearly above the average index for the region and only behind South Korea and Russia between the MIST (Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea and Turkey) and BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries (

In general terms, the standard of life of Latin-Americans seems to have increased in the last 20 years.  However, these results are misleading by the fact that the index does not take into account the distribution of human development among the population and, especially when the concentration of income is in the hands of a very small group. For instance, 30% of the 100 top richest people in 2013 Forbes list come from developing countries ( and from that proportion, one third comes from Latin America.

Developing countries have created new models and strategies to overcome underdevelopment, by targeting inequality and improving the standard of life of populations. Examples of these are the Mexican program, under its current denomination, Oportunidades and its Brazilian version Bolsa familia, as well as, cash transfers and subsidies schemes such as the ones implemented by the Indian and the Indonesian government. Nevertheless, these strategies take time to harvest and therefore it is important to continue that tendency and reinforce social investment, particularly in education, health and infrastructure.

“The South is driving global economic growth and societal change for the first time in centuries,” says the Report. But developed and developing governments must ensure that such economic growth spills over and aims to a more equally social and geographical distribution.

–Carmen Robledo-Lopez

*GDI per capita of USD$12,947, life expectancy of 77 years and a mean of 8.5 years of schooling (

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In the year 2000, the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) lost the Mexican presidential election for the first time in 70 years. After 12 years of PAN (National Action Party) ruling, Enrique Peña Nieto, from PRI, was sworn as President of Mexico last December.


After the 100 days in power, the Peña Nieto government just launched a series of public consultations on the five axes of the National Development Plan 2013-2018: 1) Mexico in peace; 2) social inclusion; 3) education with quality; 4) economic prosperity; and 5) Mexico as a responsible global actor.


The first forum to take place was on Mexico as a global actor. It was held earlier this week at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and had the participation of diplomats, academics, civil society and business representatives. President Peña Nieto outlined the main objectives of the foreign policy of the country for the following years: to strengthen the presence of Mexico in the World, to increase the international cooperation, to promote the values, heritage, history and culture of Mexico and to protect the interest of Mexican citizens overseas.


President Peña Nieto highlighted the large potential of Mexico to contribute in favour of global peace and prosperity. “There should not be distant countries for Mexico, we have to interact with all, we have so much to offer to them and we can also learn a lot from their experiences… We must build a model of international cooperation. This is the moment for our country to become a responsible global actor”, indicated the Mexican President.


Traditionally, Mexico has been a very active country in multilateral fora and also has a reputation of mediator and conciliator, for instance in the Central America peace process and Grupo Contadora. Despite the fact that international cooperation is one of the nine constitutional principles of foreign policy, the size and potential of the country is not fully reflected in its international cooperation policy.


Since the 70s Mexico has participated in several projects of international cooperation, both as a donor and a recipient. In 1998 the Mexican Institute for International Cooperation (IMEXCI, Instituto Mexicano de Cooperación Internacional) was established, under the umbrella of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. IMEXCI had a very short life, in 2000 it was dissolved and its functions were absorbed by other divisions within the Ministry. But it was until 2011 that the Mexican Congress approved the International Cooperation Law which ordered the creation of AMEXCID (Mexican Agency for International Cooperation) and the establishment of an international cooperation program, database and fund.

–Carmen Robledo-Lopez (ANU/ANCLAS PhD Candidate)

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Has Brazil cracked the solar power nut?

Well, not completely, but an IPS story suggests that have come really close with a new form of solar cell that is printed on plastic and not silicon. This makes it much cheaper to produce, easier to use, and easier to deploy. The full story is linked HERE.

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Hard questions from the new Pope’s past

The Guardian newspaper is reporting that Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, newly elected as the Catholic Church’s new Pope, Francis, has some hard questions to and answer over his conduct during Argentina’s military dictatorship. Writing in The Guardian, Hugh O’Shaugnessy refers to Argentine journalist Horacio Verbitsky’s book El Silencio, and notes:

[Verbitsky] recounts how the Argentine navy with the connivance of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, now the Jesuit archbishop of Buenos Aires, hid from a visiting delegation of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission the dictatorship’s political prisoners. Bergoglio was hiding them in nothing less than his holiday home in an island called El Silencio in the River Plate. The most shaming thing for the church is that in such circumstances Bergoglio’s name was allowed to go forward in the ballot to chose the successor of John Paul II. What scandal would not have ensued if the first pope ever to be elected from the continent of America had been revealed as an accessory to murder and false imprisonment.

While undoubtedly a triumph for the Catholic faithful in Latin America and, as Rogelio Núñez has written, a canny geopolitical choice that moves the centre of gravity of the Church away from secular Europe to the more devout and socially stable Latin America, there are now almost certainly going to be questions asked about where the Vatican stands on questions of fundamental human rights and how the new Pope’s past fits into this tradition. That the Vatican has itself made choices that open up these questions is somewhat remarkable given the pro-democracy and human rights legacy of Pope John Paul II.

You can find Verbitsky’s most recent writings and thoughts on the subject HERE.

Update… this story keeps getting deeper, now in Buenos Aires paper Pagina 12.

The BBC Español has now come out with a bit of a counter-story giving some more background and context.

And now the New York Times has weighed in on the debate.

A controversial figure, and one that seems set to create a bit of a tussle between some competing news outlets, too.

Evidence out of Paraguay that the new Pope was protecting people from dictatorships in the region — regional dictators cooperated in their persecution through Operation Condor.


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Raúl Castro has business to do before he retires

Adrian H. Hearn is an Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellow at the University of Sydney China Studies Centre, and Chair of the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) Section for Asia and the Americas.

 Raúl Castro’s decision to retire as Cuba’s leader in 2018 comes as internal pressure mounts on the island’s Communist government to ensure a viable path for business development.  The controlled opening of the Cuban economy constitutes Raúl’s most prominent achievement since he replaced Fidel Castro six years ago.  This week Cuba’s former Minister of Education, 52-year old Miguel Díaz-Canel, has been named as the successor to safeguard this legacy.

According to a report presented to the Cuban National Assembly, 365,000 jobs were cut from the state payroll in 2011 and2012, and the number of non-state workers grew by 23 percent.  “Self-employed” workers now number around 400,000, but their commercial viability is far from secure.  There are two reasons for this: one ideologicaland one practical, and the Castro/ Díaz team will need to deal with both.

First, the government’s 2011 Social and Economic Policy Guidelines offer the following caution to budding entrepreneurs: “in the non-state system, the concentration of property will not be permitted.”  This commitment to egalitarianism will probably diminish over time.  Political bureau member Esteban Lazo Hernández predicts that by 2017 the growth of the private sector will see the state’s share of GDP fall from 95 percent to around 40 percent.  

A more practical obstacle to small business development is Cuba’s incoherent wholesale supply chain.  New entrepreneurs must rely on finances and inputs acquired either from family overseas or illegally from socios (well-placed business partners) in state factories.  Legalization of a wider range of private occupations—a move often advocated by foreign commentators—will only deepen the black market if the supply problem is not dealt with first.  Establishing robust supply chains to support small business development, diminish the black market, and reduce corruption will be critical both to the health of the Cuban economy and the credibility of the state over the next five years.

It is worth noting that across the Pacific, on a grander scale, China faces comparable challenges.  Like Díaz-Canel, Xi Jinping has recently been selected by the internal mechanisms of his nation’s Communist Party as the new President.  His acceptance speech may just as well have been delivered in Havana, calling for “reform and opening up,” the reduction of “undue emphasis on formality and bureaucracy,” and the eradication of “corruption and bribe-taking.”  That China has become Cuba’s second-largest trade partner and recognizes the island as a “fraternal brother” is a telling recognition of shared heritage, and perhaps a common future.

Please Note: an earlier version of this piece appeared on

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