Foreign policy and defense
Brazil is a nation in South America. Its capital city is Brasilia. During the 2000s, Brazil has moved towards a clearer and more independent profile in foreign policy contexts than before. The country generally has stable relations with its neighboring countries and is a driving force in international contexts. An important foreign policy goal is to secure a permanent place in the UN Security Council.
The fact that Brazil has traditionally focused inward, both economically and politically, is due to the country’s size, division and linguistic isolation in Latin America. However, block formation in other parts of the world has pushed Latin American countries closer together. Therefore, Brazil joined in 1991 and formed the regional free trade area Mercosur (Mercosul in Portuguese) together with Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. It is a customs union with a common market as a goal. Economic cooperation has also opened up for increased political exchange. (Venezuela became a member in 2012 with has been suspended since 2016 when the country is not considered to follow trade rules or respect democracy and human rights.)
- Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Brazil for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.
President Lula da Silva raised Brazil’s international profile after taking office in 2003. One of his goals was to deepen cooperation within Mercosur to counterbalance America’s strong influence on the continent. At the same time, he tried to act as a suppressive force and counterbalance to more radical presidential colleagues, such as Hugo Chávez in Venezuela and Evo Morales in Bolivia.
With Jair Bolsonaro’s take-over as president in 2018, political loyalties were shifted to the right – Bolsonaro in particular emphasizing his ideological closeness to US Republican President Donald Trump.
In 2004, Brazil and the other eleven states in South America laid the foundations for a new economic and political community, partly with the EU as a model. The idea was to increase the region’s influence in international trade contexts and counter US dominance. A basic treaty for the new Union Unsasur was signed in 2008 and it came into force in 2011. But the Union has hardly come out of the planning stage and in 2018, Brazil and five other countries suspended their participation in Unasur until further notice.
Loyal to the United States
Brazil was long loyal to the United States, which supported the military dictatorship until the late 1970s, when the situation deteriorated as the United States resisted Brazil’s attempts to acquire nuclear power and criticized the human rights situation in the country. The relationship remained frosty until the end of the Cold War 1989–1990.
Thereafter, relations improved even though trade disputes occasionally made contacts more difficult. On the personal level, many Brazilians also still feel bitterness against the United States for its support of the dictatorship.
Brazil also has suspicions of the US military presence in the Amazon to combat drug smuggling from there to the US and Europe. Although Brazil and the United States are cooperating on some plan to curb drug trafficking, Brazil has demanded guarantees that the US forces in Colombia should operate only on Colombian soil. But on the whole, Brazil and the United States today have a well-functioning cooperation.
In 2013, however, relations between the two countries deteriorated again, after the American “whistleblower” Edward Snowden revealed that the US security service NSA was intercepting the peaks of Brazilian society, including President Rousseff. The disclosure is believed to have contributed to Brazil choosing to buy JAS Gripen planes from Swedish Saab instead of F 18 planes from American Boeing. It also led to the president canceling a planned official visit to the United States during the fall (see Calendar).
Disputes with neighboring countries
Brazil’s relationship with Argentina’s largest neighboring country is stable, despite repeated trade disputes. However, the 2019 election of Alberto Fernández as the new president of Argentina risks leading to contradictions. President Bolsonaro has said that the leftist Fernández will turn Argentina into a “southern Venezuela”.
With Paraguay, Brazil has had a lengthy dispute over the use of the Itaipú power plant that the countries built together in a border river. Ninety percent of the electricity Itaipú produces goes to Brazil, and the conflict concerns how much the country will pay. In 2009, the dispute was resolved when Brazil accepted a three-fold increase in fees.
Relations with the old colonial power of Portugal changed when the Portuguese dictatorship was buried in 1974. Having previously supported Portugal in the wars against the liberation movements in the African colonies, the military government in Brazil completely reversed and recognized as the first country in the world the Marxist MPLA regime in Angola. 1975. The decision was contentious within its own government and was taken in opposition to the United States.
Brazil was the only Latin American country to participate in World War II (see Older History). Today, Brazil is involved in UN peacekeeping efforts. Among other things, the country led the military part of the UN stabilization mission Minustah in Haiti from 2004 until it was wound up in 2017.
Brazil has the region’s largest military power, but the importance of the military has diminished since democracy was restored in 1985. The fight against drug trafficking in the Amazon is now the military’s most important task. In 2018, however, the army was deployed to strengthen security in the seriously violent state of Rio de Janeiro. It was the first time since the fall of the military dictatorship that the military was used to strengthen domestic security.
FACTS – DEFENSE
Army: 198 000 men (2017)
The air Force: 67,500 men (2017)
The fleet: 69,000 men (2017)
Military expenditure’s share of GDP: 1.4 percent (2017)
Military spending’s share of the state budget: 3.7 percent (2017)
The Minister of Labor is forced to resign
Labor Minister Carlos Lupi (Democratic Labor Party, PDT) resigns after bribery charges. He is the sixth minister in six months to leave his post; in five cases, there have been suspicions of corruption. Rousseff’s zero toll against corruption is popular with the public.
The Minister of Sports is leaving
Sports Minister Orlando Silva submits his resignation application after being accused of helping to arrange bribes for millions.
New lot is registered
The Social Democratic Party PSD was formed in March when São Paulo Mayor Gilberto Kassab left the Democrats. It is now officially registered by the electoral authority. Despite Kassab’s background in the opposition party Democrats, PSD supports President Rousseff’s leftist coalition, which now consists of 14 parties. The PSD is already estimated to be the third largest grouping in the federal parliament, after about 60 members of the Chamber of Deputies and at least two senators joined.
The Minister of Tourism is leaving
Minister of Tourism Pedro Novais (PMDB) is forced to go after media reports that he used public funds to pay private servants. Novais has been stuck for weeks after the mass arrest of 38 officials in his department in August, which was due to suspicions of widespread corruption.
The Minister of Agriculture is leaving
Agriculture Minister Wagner Rossi (PMDB) goes after allegations of taking bribes, which he denies. The president’s growing conflict with his own government coalition has led the Labor Party’s main partner PMDB to launch a masking campaign in Congress, and the Republican Party has left the government (see July 2011).
The Minister of Defense resigns
Defense Minister Nelson Jobin (PMDB) is dismissed by President Rousseff. Jobin is accused of derogatory comments about female colleagues. He is replaced by Celso Amorim, former Foreign Minister.
The Minister of Transport is leaving
The leader of the Republic Party (PR) Alfredo Nascimento resigns as Minister of Transport after accusations that he led a group of corrupt officials in the ministry, who took bribes from private contractors for public contracts. President Rousseff calls for a clean-up in the bribery business and at least 16 officials are forced to leave.
Diplomatic dispute with Italy
Italy revokes its ambassador to Brazil and announces its intention to draw Brazil before the International Court of Justice in The Hague. The reason is Brazil’s refusal to extradite Cesare Battisti, a former member of an armed left-wing group that Italy accuses of terrorism and murder committed in the 1970s.
The president’s chief of staff resigns following corruption charges
President Dilma Rousseff’s Chief of Staff Antônio Palocci is forced to resign after being reported to have increased his fortune twenty times over four years as a political consultant – at the same time as a congressman and coordinator of Rousseff’s presidential campaign. The scandal casts a shadow over the president, who is accused of poor judgment and inaction.
Welfare programs are launched
The government launches Brazil sem misery (Brazil without misery), which will lift millions of Brazilians out of extreme poverty. The program is a continuation of the Bolsa família, which Lula da Silva started during his time as president (see Social conditions).
Crisis meeting after activist murder
The government is holding a crisis meeting since four environmental activists, who worked to preserve the rainforest, were murdered in just a few days. A new report has shown that the harvesting of rainforests in the Amazon has increased almost sixfold in one year and in the country is raging a political debate on deforestation.
Growth is reported to be the strongest in 20 years. According to preliminary estimates from the central bank, the economy grew by around 7.8 percent in 2010, following a slightly negative growth in the previous year, in the wake of the global financial crisis.
Natural disaster in Rio de Janeiro
More than 800 people are killed in extensive floods and landslides in the state of Rio de Janeiro. It is the biggest natural disaster in Brazil in decades and shows major problems with poorly built housing.
Dilma Rousseff takes office
Brazil’s first female president Dilma Rousseff takes office at New Year.