Five issues that are likely to have an impact on Brazil following elections in the USA

The Democrat, Joe Biden´s victory puts automatic alignment with the USA in check and will have an impact on the Bolsonaro government´s foreign policy regarding matters on which the radical right is sensitive

The victory of the Democratic candidate, Joe Biden in the United States presidential race has placed a thorn in the side of Brazilian diplomacy. Since Jair Bolsonaro took office, Brazil has held a position of automatic and unconditional alignment with Donald Trump´s policies, contradicting the Brazilian Foreign Office´s tradition of establishing broad alliances and opposing matters that are damaging to national sovereignty and go against Brazilians living overseas.

In addition to the risk of international political isolation, Donald Trump´s defeat means Brazil has lost one of the principal supporters of Bolsonaro´s government´s radical agendas and is likely to demand a significant shift in international negotiations.

Conectas looked at five agendas related to human rights that will have to be revised in the relationship between Brazil and the United States under the Biden administration. See below:

  1. The Alcântara Agreement

In February the Bolsonaro government signed an agreement, that has been under discussion for 20 years, that permits the USA to use the Alcântara military base in Maranhão to launch missiles and satellites. For the cost of US$10 billion paid by the United States, Brazil is committed to carrying out improvements to infrastructure in the area surrounding the base and to create sectors into which only people authorised by the USA can enter. This could lead to the expulsion of around 350 quilombola communities. Under the agreement, Brazil is prevented from making launch agreements with nations that the USA classifies as financial backers of terrorist organisations and countries that have not signed the Missile Technology Control Regime, such as China, one of Brazil´s principal trade partners. It is expected that the agreement will be revoked or at least changed in terms of ensuring that the quilombola communities can remain in the surrounding areas. In October Democratic parliamentarians, among them Senator Bernie Sanders, came out against forced displacements in Alcântara. “Under no circumstances should North American tax payers´ dollars be used to forcibly relocate centenarian indigenous and quilombola communities.” They said in the statement.

  1. Mass deportations of Brazilians

The long-standing principle of Brazilian diplomacy of reciprocity, has been abandoned by the Bolsonaro administration due to its policy of automatic alignment with the USA. While North American citizens are exempt from entry visas to Brazil, Brazilians who do not have documentation in the United States are now being summarily deported with the endorsement and facilitation of the Brazilian government, that issues certification of nationality without consulting migrants. This document allows migrants to be sent back to Brazil by force. In January, an aeroplane with 50 Brazilians who had been deported from the USA landed in Belo Horizonte. In October 2019, another flight brought back more than 70 people. Although the Obama government registered record numbers of deportations – around 2.5 million people were deported between 2009 and 2015 – Biden has promised a hundred-day moratorium of deportations and to abolish Trump´s migratory measures, such as the profit-making migration prisons, restrictions on Muslim migrants and the idea of a wall along the border with Mexico. Biden has also defended a reform of the asylum policy, including temporary protection status for migrants coming from violent countries or ones that have suffered disasters. His choice to appoint Kamala Harris, a black woman and the daughter of migrant parents, to occupy the position of vice-president, brings hope of a shift in North American migratory policy. It is hoped that the Biden administration will mean less persecution of migrants in the United States. It remains to be seen whether the Bolsonaro government will change its collaborative stance with the USA against Brazilians without migratory documentation.

  1. Anti-gender offensive

In October, the Brazilian and United States governments led an international initiative with the purpose of uniting a number of countries against the right to safe abortion. The document is called ´The Geneva Consensus Declaration´ and it claims to want to protect family and women´s health, but only takes into account the heteronormative model of heterosexual couples and reinforces the protection of life from conception, ruling out legal, safe abortion. The initiative is co-sponsored by six countries and 26 others have joined. Although it does not carry the clout of an international treaty, this stance indicates the direction of Brazil´s foreign policy in terms of gender and could intensify Brazil´s participation in breaking existing international consensuses. The expectation is that the Biden government will take the USA out of ´The Geneva Consensus Declaration´ further isolating Brazil in its international stance on this matter, alongside countries like Saudi Arabia, Belarus and South Sudan, that are against women´s rights.

  1. Entry to the OECD

Last January, the Bolsonaro government managed to get formal support from the USA for Brazil´s candidacy to enter the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development). The OECD is considered to be a ´club of rich countries´ and offers its members advantages in negotiations and international loans, while it also demands the implementation of a number of fiscal and environmental measures, as well as public policies in several different areas. It is too soon to say whether Biden will maintain support for the Brazilian candidacy, but with Trump´s departure from the White House, the Bolsonaro government will lose an accomplice in its socioenvironmental and human rights violations. Now, it will have to demonstrate minimal commitment to environmental issues and respect for the rule of law and democracy in order to uphold its request.

  1. Venezuela

The political crisis in Venezuela and the migration of Venezuelan refugees to other countries in the region, including Brazil, was one of the platforms in the 2018 presidential elections and unites the right across the whole American continent against President Nicolás Maduro. Although Bolsonaro has not significantly altered Operação Acolhida, he has kept the borders closed during the pandemic, recognised the opposition leader, Juan Guaidó as president and has always been very ambiguous with regards to possible military intervention in the neighbouring country. In September, the Brazilian Chancellor, Ernesto Araújo hosted the North American Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, in Roraima, a state that has a border with Venezuela. Both authorities harshly criticised the Maduro government, but many politicians in the country regard the visit as an electoral platform of the Trump government and a violation of Brazilian national sovereignty. It is hoped that under the Biden administration, the United States will engage in multilateral, diplomatic efforts to reinstate democracy in Venezuela. It is unlikely that Bolsonaro´s Brazil will take part in these efforts. On the domestic front, the Democrat is also likely to extend protection to approximately 200 thousand Venezuelans who live in the USA and run the risk of deportation, a measure approved by Congress but rejected by the Republican majority Senate.

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