In a recent article in Le Monde diplomatic, Renaud Lambert discussed the growing power and contradiction of Brazil’s new economic and political clout in South America. Noting how trade between Brazil and Venezuela has increased 800% since 1999 when Hugo Chávez took office, Lambert interviewed Samuel Pinheiro Guimarães ― former minister of the secretariat of strategic affairs under President Lula da Silva (2003-2010) ― and wrote that:
At 74, he has become a straight talker: “What advantage do you see for France or Germany in integrating with a country such as Malta?” he asked. “None at all. Except perhaps that it’s a sovereign country, and therefore has a vote in international institutions.” With other major blocs forming around the world, Brazil must create its “own” region, based not on Latin America, since Mexico and Central America “vote with Washington”, but on South America, which should become “the central axis of our strategy of rejection of all subservience to US interests.”
The anti-imperialism of the most progressive among Brazil’s senior civil servants is like Pomar’s. He thinks that, irrespective of the political convictions of its backers, a movement founded on this anti-US rhetoric could spur social change: “Every attempt to build a socialist bloc in Latin America has run into two obstacles: the power of the Latin American bourgeoisie, and that of the White House. Brazil’s integration initiative will not eliminate outside interference, but will reduce its impact, and give national politics greater autonomy.” The tough stance of the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) — founded in 2008 — probably helped to foil Bolivian and Ecuadorian coups in 2008 and 2010. When the Venezuelan opposition and the US challenged the validity of the election of Nicolas Maduro, Unasur supported Hugo Chávez’s designated heir. “In the past, issues of that kind were settled by the Organisation of American States — that means by the White House,” said Pinheiro Guimarães. Secretary of State John Kerry recently referred to Latin America as the “backyard” of the US.