It came as little surprise to me to read this morning that Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has refused join the steadily-increasing number of governments who have recognised the Syrian opposition coalition formed in Doha last week as the country’s legitimate government.
The Brazilian government has instead expressed issued a statement expressing its concern at the worsening violence in the country and called for an enlarged role for the United Nations in solving the conflict. This stance is sadly entirely characteristic of Brazilian foreign policy over the last decade: abdicate responsibility and continue calling for multi-lateral solutions even when, as in this case, the time for UN-led negotiations has long since passed. Decepcionante…
What makes this decision all the more difficult to understand is that there is a significant number of senior political figures of Lebanese descent currently serving in the upper echelons of the Brazilian government who will no doubt be extremely familiar with the Syrian occupation of Lebanon that was in place for thirty years from 1976 to 2006. Lebanese-Brazilians a enjoy significant influence of Brazil’s economic, cultural and political life – their ranks including Vice-President Michel Temer, Sao Paulo Governor Geraldo Alckmin and outgoing Sao Paulo Mayor Gilberto Kassab. Widespread protests by the influential Lebanese community could prove vital to forcing President Rousseff to change tack.
Last December I wrote an article for The Commentator expressing my outrage that Brazil had abstained from a vote on United Nations Security Council voted on Resolution 1973 ordering Muammar Gaddafi to call a ceasefire against opposition rebels and imposing a ‘no fly zone’ over Libya. What was the Brazilian government’s solution to stop the carnage? They issued a press release calling for “dialogue” between Gaddafi and the rebels.
In the piece, I argued that the Rousseff administration ought to refocus its approach to international relations in order to achieve a leadership role on human rights issues amongst countries in the new global democratic order. In light of the country’s refusal to back the Syrian rebels seeking to overthrow the barbaric Assad regime, I’d say the article is as relevant today as it was then:
Brazil’s long-held belief in a foreign policy which actively avoids military conflict in favour of diplomacy need not fundamentally change. What must change, however, is the country’s willingness to sacrifice its own passion for the defence of human rights and democracy in the pursuit of a high-minded yet spineless policy of non-interventionism at almost all costs.
An aversion to sending troops into combat need not result in a refusal to impose trade barriers, cut off Brazilian government aid or to back the international community in UN resolutions condemning tyranny.
President Rousseff must ask herself a simple question: does Brazil want to lead a new global democratic order or continue as a quisling state that stands idly by while the same hatreds and injustices that once plagued Brazil rage on its border and overseas?
You can take a look at the extended piece by clicking here.