I am delighted to announce the second issue of BRaS-Blog Special Editions (SE). BRaS has been fulfilling its goal to boost and foster a research network based on interdisciplinary collaboration and SE n. 2 could not be a better example of that. My dear friend and colleague Dr. Luiz Eduardo Garcia da Silva has brought together a wonderful team of researchers to talk about the new Brazilian foreign policy under Bolsonaro’s government for the next weeks.

Looking forward to the repercussions of SE n. 2! Stay tuned and enjoy!

Anna Paula Bennech


by Dr. Luiz Eduardo Garcia da Silva*

Edited and reviewed by Anna Paula Bennech and Giovanna Imbernon

Organized by Dr. Luiz Eduardo Garcia da Silva


Brazilian foreign policy has been undergoing shifts since the ousting of President Dilma in 2016 after an impeachment process due to budgetary inconsistencies. At that point, Brazilian foreign policymakers, including President Michel Temer (MDB) and the new Minister of Foreign Affairs, José Serra (PSDB), had promised changes in many central points to set up our International Relations tone. For example, the decreasing importance of multilateralism, reduced protagonism of Brazil vis-à-vis Latin American partners in political and economic matters, and adoption of a liberal pro-market discourse regarding trade and capital flow that not unusually collides with Mercosur internal norms.

Besides those examples, the most dramatic change noticed at that time was Brazil’s position towards Venezuela. In 2017, Brazil joined the Group of Lima, a cluster of countries including the United States, whose signatories appeal to Venezuelan authorities to reestablish democracy and respect human rights. Until then, Lula and Dilma did not hold an accusatory tone against Maduro’s presidency and regularly stated the need for a pacific, democratic, and dialogued political solution in Venezuela. The Group of Lima marks a transition and shows the failure of Unasur and the reestablished leadership of the US and the OAS in the security axis of South America.

Such examples demonstrate the gradually reduced priority of regional integration initiatives by the Brazilian foreign policy authorities compared to former administrations. However, this is not a unidirectional process, as other South American countries have also reduced attention to regional initiatives (Nolte 2021). Nevertheless, Brazil’s disengagement is illustrative because the country plays an important role in promoting these initiatives. Once it is out, the side effects are the cooling up of such actions. Evidently, other aspects manifested intricacies in the region, such as the rise of right-wing presidents, challenging the coordination of common policies, South-American States’ political and economic crisis, and different foreign policy agendas.

Shifts in foreign policy are not only usual but expected up to a certain point when government change occurs, especially in Latin American countries under presidential systems. That is to say that despite the importance of partisanship in politics, there is always space for Presidents to implement their own international agenda – the so-called “presidential diplomacy” (Danese 2007). These changes happened even when Dilma succeeded Lula, both members of the same party (the Workers Party – Partido dos Trabalhadores) and sharing, theoretically, similar political projects (Cornetet 2014).

However, few could foresee the significant shifts that were about to happen within Brazilian foreign policy from the election of Jair Bolsonaro in 2019. The degree and depth of the “New Foreign Policy,” thus denominated by Chancellor Ernesto Araújo, has no parallel in Brazilian history. It stands in opposition to many of Brazil’s Diplomatic traditions, such as the effort to solve issues peacefully and dialogue instead of military interventions in the case of political turmoil (Lafer 2001).

The importance of Latin America to the Brazilian foreign policy is not only a matter of discourse and tradition. Regional integration is one of the front vectors of Brazil’s international relations guidelines, whose aim was formally included in the Constitution of 1988: to promote economic, political, social, and cultural integration of the Latin American people, intending to form a community of Latin-American nations (Brasil 1988, Article 4). Moreover, South America is the sub-region where Brazil could play a leadership role due to its geographic, demographic, and economic predominance (Almeida 2020). There are several examples of Brazil’s regular efforts towards becoming the protagonist player in the region, such as the formation of Mercosur and Unasur.

In the case of Mercosur, member-states have seen the initiative as a way to deepen the presence of the region in the global economic sphere. Also, the economic gains would surpass traditional national rivalries by boosting intraregional and international trade, especially those between Brazil and Argentina. However, the experience has shown that these hindrances would not be easily overcome. Nevertheless, even when difficulties took place, Mercosur had never lost its appeal. Political coordination among member-states was important in multilateral forums, and progress in other areas could be seen, as is the Social Agenda of Mercosur’s case.

By its turn, Unasur brought together all South American countries to promote stronger political integration and coordination. Stemming from the Integration of Regional Infrastructure in South America (IIRSA), an initiative promoted by the Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso in 2000, Unasur would later widen its scope of action by initially stating the promotion of greater cooperation in the fields of security, health, and energy. Furthermore, the formation of the South American Defense Council raised considerable attention due to the coordination of regional military actions and other activities related to army and security policy cooperation.

Conversely, in the presidential campaign of 2018, Jair Bolsonaro did not present a transparent foreign policy project. On the contrary, it approached only a few topics related to the international sphere, usually with a tone that could help boost his electoral gains during the campaign[1]. The term “regional integration” was not even mentioned in his government program nor in interviews and speeches given by the newly elected President Bolsonaro and his staff, who disclosed little information on policies that would be implemented in international relations.

Once in power, Bolsonaro and his foreign policy team – mainly composed of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ernesto Araújo, and Filipe Martins, Advisor to the President for International Affairs – carried on a series of decisions that contradicted Brazilian foreign policy historical diplomatic traditions[2]. This special issue aims to understand and reflect on this change. What were the main drivers of Brazilian foreign policy since January 2019, and how have they changed the path of Brazil’s international insertion? Moreover, our goal is not to present a mere collection of events but, instead, to offer different analyses to support the idea of a non-orthodox President of Brazil. The effort here is to present a conceptual framework that displays a rationale to better grasp Bolsonaro’s and his staff’s modus operandi regarding foreign policy decisions, focusing on regional integration initiatives.

In broader terms, the apparent oscillating behavior and lack of direction can be understood as an action method in which the government’s ideological dimension is the main driver. The instigating piece of Carolina Salgado, entitled “Towards a meaningful framework for Brazilian Foreign Policy under Bolsonaro,” will present such tentative that draws on negationism not only in the case of the COVID-19 pandemic but also in previous actions. In her words, “those negationist practices and discourses are all but selfless or naïve.”

Mauricio Kenyatta’s article addresses the challenges to forming a comprehensive South American security regime independent from the interests of extra-regional powers. The emptying of Unasur represents the weakening of regional integration, Brazilian leadership in the region, and a proposal for a more autonomous international insertion. The damages are the increased sensitivity of South American countries to the harassment of powers and vulnerability to security challenges at the international level.

The closing article features Barbara Neves, entitled “From regional leader to international outcast: the Brazilian Foreign Policy under Bolsonaro’s government and its impacts on South-American regionalism.” She points out that “a once reliable and strong state leading and pushing forward the relations through the subcontinent, currently is isolated and with difficulties in bargaining its position within the International System.”

We hope this special issue will help you broaden your understanding of Brazil’s current foreign policymaking and enlighten the present regional integration initiatives. As a final remark, we thank the BRaS-Center and its amazing staff for the opportunity and space to publish our readings and views on the current situation of Brazilian international relations.

Enjoy it!



Almeida, Paulo Roberto . Uma certa ideia do Itamaraty: a reconstrução da política externa e a restauração da diplomacia brasileira. Brasília, DF: Diplomatizzando,, 2020.

BRASIL. Consituição da República Federativa do Brasil. Brasília, DF: Centro Gráfico ,1988.

Cornetet, João Marcelo. “A política externa de Dilma Rousseff: contenção na continuidade.” Conjuntura Austral 5, nº 24 (2014): 111-150.

Danese, Sérgio. Diplomacia Presidencial: história e crítica. Brasília: FUNAG, 2007.

Lafer, Celso. A identidade internacional do Brasil e a política externa brasileira: passado, presente e futuro. São Paulo : Perspectiva, 2001.

Nolte, Detlef. “From the summits to the plains: The crisis of Latin American Regionalism.” Latin American Policy, 2021: 1-12.

[1] The crisis in Venezuela is a case in Brazilian politics used by right-wing political parties to denounce a supposedly “threat of a communist/ bolivarianist” path that Brazil would follow if the Workers Party (PT) won the election. However, once in power, little was done by PT’s presidencies to promote political dialogue or cooperation with the Venezuelan people.

[2] https://jornal.usp.br/atualidades/tentativas-de-mudanca-na-politica-externa-brasileira-trazem-preocupacao/

* Luiz Eduardo Garcia da Silva is a Social Scientist (UFRGS), Economist (UFRGS), and holds a Master and a Ph.D. in Political Science (UFRGS). He currently is a Ph.D. candidate in Development Economics (PUCRS). His research interests are regional integration, Brazilian Foreign Policy, Brazil-Mexico Relations, and Mexican Foreign Policy, Monetary Integration, Optimal Currency Area, and Trade Theory.