THE DIFFERING PATHS OF MEXICO AND BRAZIL
For the first time ever, Latin America's two giants, Brazil and Mexico, are both looking beyond their borders for significant international roles. It is striking, however, how differently each is pursuing that goal. Mexico has linked its future to the United States and almost fully opened its economy to foreign trade and investment. Brazil, in contrast, remains a relatively closed economy, pursues an independent leadership role in South America, and is seen by the United States as an opponent on some issues.
Mexico's choices have clearly been influenced by the fact that it sits in the shadow of the world's richest and most powerful nation. Brazil, a continent-sized nation located some 2,400 miles from the United States and surrounded by ten smaller neighbors, has a rather different perspective on the world. Yet until recently, it was Mexico that most zealously shielded its independence from the United States.
Geography, to be sure, has played a major role in the pursuit of these divergent paths. But domestic politics and national ideologies have also been critical in molding the agendas of the two nations. Brazilian political leaders and thinkers, and even ordinary citizens, have long believed that their country should be counted among the world's most important states. Mexicans, meanwhile, historically have been less concerned about their place in the world than about their relations with the United States. Moreover, until Vicente Fox assumed the presidency in December 2000, Mexico was ruled by authoritarian and centralized governments. Recent Brazilian governments, on the other hand, have been more democratic than their Mexican counterparts but also weaker and more susceptible to popular pressure.
A CERTAIN SIMILARITY
Brazil and Mexico have enough demographic and economic heft to exert real influence in international affairs. At the outset of 2001, Brazil was the fifth most populous country and had the eighth-largest economy in the world. Mexico was the eleventh most populous and had the twelfth-largest economy. (Currency fluctuations in the past year have left the
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