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File photograph showing far-right presidential hopeful Jair Bolsonaro at a press conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Oct 11, 2018. EPA-EFE File/Marcelo Sayão
Photograph showing far-right presidential hopeful Jair Bolsonaro at a press conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Oct 11, 2018. EPA-EFE File/Marcelo Sayão

Brazil likely to turn away from global South with Bolsonaro

With the last round of the presidential elections approaching, Brazil's participation in international organizations is at stake. 

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Brazil, a country that was very active on the international stage and that launched several integration initiatives among developing nations during the Luis Inacio Lula da Silva administration, will likely turn away from the global South and look North if far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro wins the upcoming presidential runoff.

This assessment was corroborated by international relations expert Andrea Ribeiro Hoffmann, a professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro.

Bolsonaro, she says, could "revert" the foreign policy initiatives launched during the administrations of the center-left Workers Party (PT) under Lula, from 2003-2011, and successor Dilma Rousseff, who governed from 2011-2016.

The rightist hopeful is a professed admirer of Brazil's 1964-1985 military regime who spouts racist and misogynist rhetoric.

"His proposal seems to be, first of all, to revert the foreign policy of the PT governments, which has already partially been done by President Michel Temer, though Bolsonaro aims to go far beyond that," Hoffmann said during an interview with EFE.

"Regarding its partners, Brazil has moved away from South-South cooperation, including with BRICS and African countries, but especially with Latin America," she said.

Temer took power in August 2016 after Congress ousted Rousseff in a maneuver of dubious legality less than two years after she won re-election.

Bolsonaro, the top finisher in the first round of the presidential election, winning 46 percent of the vote, is favored to prevail next Sunday over Fernando Haddad, who stepped in as the PT candidate after the still-popular Lula was barred from the contest for a corruption conviction.

Under Lula, Brazil led the creation of organizations to favor the integration of developing countries, including the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and the BRICS forum, made up of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Bolsonaro has insinuated that he will turn away from those and other multilateral organizations, and that he will withdraw Brazil from international accords such as the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, following in the footsteps of US President Donald Trump, whom he views as a role model.

"Temer's government has already reverted Brazil's role as a regional leader and suspended Brazil's participation in UNASUR. We can expect this trend to intensify and for Brazil to withdraw from the organization, as Colombia did," after a possible Bolsonaro win, Hoffmann said.

"We can also expect a continued distancing from BRICS, though Brazil will not be able to avoid maintaining close trade relations with China because of the Asian giant's importance for Brazilian agricultural exports," she said.

According to Hoffmann, even though Bolsonaro seeks proximity with Trump, it is not clear how he will make his neoliberal policies compatible with the neo-protectionism espoused by the U.S. president.

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