Brazilian Foreign Policy in Changing Times: The Quest for Autonomy From Sarney to Lula

In This Review

Brazilian Foreign Policy in Changing Times: The Quest for Autonomy From Sarney to Lula
By Tullo Vigevani and Gabriel Cepaluni. Translated by Leandro M
Lexington Books, 2009
182 pp. $65.00

In Washington, seasoned diplomats often chide idealistic newcomers who imagine that they can improve U.S. relations with Brazil. The veterans warn that such idealism will eventually be shattered by the defensive double-dealing that is endemic to Brazilian foreign policy. Vigevani and Cepaluni help explain why this is so, untangling the three main quests that have guided Brazilian foreign policy at various times: for "autonomy through distance" from a liberalizing international order, for "autonomy through participation" in international forums, and for "autonomy through diversification" of relations -- combined with the ever-present quest for autonomy from the United States. Brazil's powerful Foreign Ministry, Itamaraty, seems to give little thought to discovering cooperative solutions to common international problems. Although generally sympathetic to Itamaraty, the co-authors do note the inherent tension between its pursuit of a freer hand in global affairs and Brazil's aspirations to become a regional leader -- a position that would require it to accept some constraints imposed by regional partners. A more critical assessment of Itamaraty would also draw attention to its hankering for procedural formalities and prestige of place over concrete results and its anachronistic domination by elite white males in a young, multiracial society.

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