…an awful lot of coffee in brazil – that was then…

…well, not quite that much — times have changed since those days when countries of the ‘backyard’ were treated as mere plantations ‘fated’ to produce mainly primary products and to extract their natural resources for export to the industrialized, ‘advanced’ countries. Even many a new ‘Carmen Mirandas’ is a professional… 

If we remember, the US has spied on the President of Brazil, her citizens, the country’s institutions and businesses. And in response the President of the US has treated that revelation dismissively, as a minor event, with no apology to the country, its people or its leader. Such comportment from one still so inexperienced, even if President of the US, only ensures the acceleration of a process that has been taking place for more than a decade, and not only in Brazil.

A post from Mark Weisbrot of CEPR over at nacla sets out the reality in straightforward and simple fashion. In this post, Washington and São Paulo: Spying and a Fading Friendship, we appreciate better the blatant disrespect and other more egregious indignities inflicted on the region by the United States, which, as recently as 2013, would casually refer to the region as its ‘backyard’.

We sketch a pattern as we highlight snippets that invite a full exploration of Weisbrot’s article,

Lula made a conscious decision that Brazil would look more to the south and less to the United States as a leader in its foreign and commercial policy. In an interview with the Argentine daily Pagina 12 this past October, he explained how important the turning point of Mar del Plata was, when the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) was finally buried at the Summit of the Americas in 2005:

“It was fundamental that we had stopped this proposal to form the FTAA, at Mar del Plata. It was not a true project of integration, but one of economic annexation. With its sovereignty affirmed, South America looked for its own path and a much more constructive one. . . . When we analyze this history of South America we can see that it is one great conquest. If we had not avoided the FTAA, the region would not have been able to take the economic and social leap forward that it did in the past decade. Argentina, Brazil, and Venezuela played a central role in this process. Néstor Kirchner and Hugo Chávez were two great allies in accomplishing this.”

In 2002, when Lula was elected, Brazil’s exports to the United States were 26.4% of its total exports. By 2011, they were down to 10.4%. Meanwhile, China’s economy is by some measures already bigger than the U.S. economy, and it may well double in size over the next decade. That projection, which would require only a 7.2% annual rate of growth, is quite probable, as likely as any ten-year projection for the United States—perhaps even more so. The United States will become increasingly less important to Brazil, and to South America generally. Given that Washington still does not respect Latin American sovereignty, much less the goals and aspirations of its democratic governments, the steady decline of U.S. economic power has to be seen as a good thing for the region.

And truth of the matter is, the leaders of these countries, each well accomplished and experienced, has been elected by their respective people, not through cynical manipulation by the plutocrats. To mention names like Mujica or Dilma or Bachelet is to bring to the present the sordid history of the US in the region. And like their other colleagues, each is real, of substance, and not a reality, an illusion, concocted by media image manipulation.

Thus, acquiescence to intimidation is no longer a pattern of behaviour that should be assumed. We have an example, the WTO decision on the trade dispute between the US and Brazil regarding subsidies to cotton producers that was finally decided in Brazil’s favour in 2009. Since that decision the US has been more active in dawdling than in complying — sort of like that WTO judgement for the tiny, tiny Antigua and Barbuda. We have one report from the globalist, U.S.-Brazil: The Battle Over Cotton Subsidies. An excerpt,

A little bit of history is in order. In 2005, in a decision hailed widely at the time, the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) ordered the U.S. government to eliminate its cotton production subsidies as well as its agricultural commodity export guarantee programs.

The United States appealed, but eventually lost the case altogether in 2009 when the WTO arbitrator approved the largest trade sanctions in history.

 From McClatchy a post that also looks at the issue, U.S.-Brazil cotton dispute might ignite all-out trade war. Informative excerpts,

WASHINGTON — Brazil is threatening to launch a full-blown trade war against the U.S. next month, accusing Congress of ignoring an order by the World Trade Organization to stop subsidizing its domestic cotton growers.


With so much uncertainty, Larry Wooten, the president of the North Carolina Farm Bureau, said the dispute was just one more reason that Congress needed to pass a farm bill quickly.

After all, he said, Brazil is an important trading partner for the U.S. and an important consumer of American products.

“We would certainly try to prevent a full-fledged trade war,” Wooten said, adding the caveat, “as long as we didn’t feel the American producers were being personally impacted and taken advantage of.”

[Bold added for emphasis]

Let’s see. The WTO had decided for Brazil against the United States, because of US trade behaviour. Yet, we have concerns expressed about ‘American producers…personally impacted…taken advantage of’?

As further evidence of that independent path being forged we have policy design and implementation that seeks to improve the quality of the life of citizens by reducing inequality and poverty and contributing to the development of a skilled workforce and a modern society. Here again we get a glance at the how and why of Brazil’s social policy. McClatchy does an interview of the Minister of Social Development, Tereza Campello. And we see the country’s path from primary products to a more modern and progressive society. Brazil’s social development minister describes how country cut poverty. Salient points,

Campello fielded a wide range of questions about South America’s largest economy. Here are her answers, edited from the original Portuguese for brevity.

Q: Here in the United States, income inequality is a big issue. In Brazil, you’ve narrowed this gap?

A: The reduction of income inequality that’s existed forever in Brazil happened in a short period. Ten years is not sufficient to eliminate 500 years of inequality, but we will not need 500 years for this to occur. (As one example, she cited Brazil’s minimum wage, which has increased 72 percent above the rate of inflation since the spring of 2002.)

Q: Is economic growth the reason for this narrowing of the income gap?

A: Brazil grew in some periods at very high rates: the 1960s, the sugarcane cycle, the gold cycle, the coffee cycle. We had growth at scandalous rates, and never in our history managed to grow and lower inequality. This had never been done, and it did not happen because of growth. Reducing inequality requires political decisions.

[Bold added for emphasis]

So, then, we have Brazil, a democratic country, an independent country, that seeks to set in place the programs, structures and institutions that would ensure the continued improvement of the quality of life of its citizens and at the same time being constructive in the social and economic development of its neighbours’ societies. Other countries would find such an ambition and results highly laudable.

Therein lies an explanation for the vilification of many of the region’s leaders and senseless efforts at economic and political destabilisation?