Latin America shows tendency toward moderation, says diplomat on Brazil election

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In terms of diplomacy, there is a kind of permanent Brazil, which changes little if a president changes in the current context, says Diego Guelar, 72, former Argentine ambassador to the country — he also served in the United States and China. .

One of the most recognized analysts of Argentine international relations, Guelar helped formulate the foreign policy of former president Mauricio Macri. “I don’t think there is a shift to the left in Latin America, but that newly elected presidents have been forced to seek moderation.”

Guelar spoke to Sheet in Buenos Aires.

like mr. see the elections in Brazil? There is a permanent Brazil, which does not change if Bolsonaro (PL) or Lula (PT) wins. If we look at the international context — with the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the change in China’s profile — and “realpolitik”, it makes no difference, in geopolitical terms, who wins.

Their rhetoric is very different, of course, but they are not central to world politics today — they are folklore. Let’s take the case of [Vladimir] Putin: His rhetoric is not new and it is terrible; the authoritarian way, as it presents itself in terms of image and treats opponents. But all this has been absorbed and to some extent accepted by the international community. Until the moment he decided to invade Ukraine. Then things change, it is no longer about folklore, but a real decision that has an impact on the planet.

There are folklores that can be very unsympathetic to many, such as Cristina Kirchner in Argentina or Bolsonaro. But as long as they don’t turn into radical decisions, they don’t change geopolitics. Italy will have a leader who stands out for folklore, scares many; but if tomorrow she comes out in a picture with [o alemão Olaf] Scholz and [o francês Emmanuel] Macron, what must happen, this is diluted, normalized.

In terms of the bilateral relationship, is there no significant difference for Argentina with Lula or Bolsonaro? Yes, Bolsonaro was refractory to Argentina, but Alberto Fernández was not helpful — on the contrary, he was quite aggressive. And Bolsonaro had no reason to go after patching up the relationship, because the one who loses the most from this cooling off is Argentina. The initiative should have come from Buenos Aires.

If Lula wins, I don’t see why he would make decisions to help a devastated Argentine government, in its last year in office and which will very likely lose next year’s elections. One thing will be the rhetoric, the folklore, of Lula with Fernández and Cristina, which will be one of sympathy, friendship. But, in practice, a probable new PT government will be looking at the succession of Argentina, and the most certain thing is that we will have a center-right government.

Wouldn’t Lula’s victory give breath to a Kirchnerist candidacy, possibly from Cristina? I have no doubt that Lula will be used in the Kirchnerism campaign, but he is an intelligent politician who knows how to strategize. So I think he’s unlikely to get too involved.

And what would be the impact for leftist administrations that have just begun, such as those in Colombia and Chile? From the point of view of a more integrative policy, Chile and Colombia together are a much more interesting combination for Brazil than the Argentina of today. Due to trade relations within the Pacific, as they were recently elected and are of the same political sign.

But I see a path to moderation in the region — and I see it with optimism. So much [Gabriel] Boric like [Gustavo] Petro softened their positions. Boric is much more at the center than his constituency, and Petro is a pragmatist leftist as well; just see he chose a moderate chancellor [Álvaro Leyva] and didn’t run to save [Nicolás] Mature. He made it clear that the rapprochement with Venezuela takes place in practical terms: trade resumption, the need to create a channel of contact for peace with the ELN.

Maduro wants more, but Petro will not be a defender of the Chavista dictatorship before the world. It is wrong to see him as a radical. I was a Montonero guerrilla and today I identify with the center-right.

Mr. Do you see the future governments of Brazil and Argentina also moving towards moderation? Yes, the Lula who will most likely win the elections is not a resentful person, he appears as someone who came out of a difficult situation willing to approach and make alliances. And the center-right that is likely to win in Argentina, whether with a new candidacy of Mauricio Macri, or with Patricia Bullrich or Horacio Larreta, will not seek extremes either.

I do not agree with the idea that there is a pendulum and now there is a wave of the left in the region. I see a new scenario in a new world. A multi-ideological South America that fits in the same picture. I don’t see why this photo can’t take place without someone losing their rhetoric. with Putin and [Donald] Trump, it has been learned that lunatics legitimized by the polls are dangerous. That is why Bolsonaro must lose, that Cristina has no chance of winning, and that these leaders in the region will seek moderation.

There is a concern in Brazil with a speech that incites violence, especially on the part of Bolsonaro. Mr. Do you see a similarity with the tone used by the Argentine government with the opposition? Is there a risk of increasing political violence in the region? Both Bolsonaro and Cristina encourage violent attitudes, and this is regrettable. In Brazil there are physical attacks on opponents. The people who attacked Cristina are the result of her aggressive rhetoric, a response to her.

But it is necessary to separate the punctual from the general. Cristina encourages violence by attacking the opposition, the media, the justice system, but we don’t have a Kirchnerist militia. The attack itself was an isolated episode, committed by a group that does not represent a large sector of society.

In the case of Brazil, even if few bolsonaristas go out to commit crimes, it will be something episodic. I do not believe that a significant number of militants can take to the streets and cause a serious problem, if Bolsonaro loses. The intensity of the response to the message from both is very low, and this reinforces the idea that we are moving towards moderation; strident leaders are losing ground and elections.


x-ray | Diego Guelar, 72

Former Argentine Ambassador to China, the US and Brazil, he was international relations advisor to former President Mauricio Macri. In his youth, he acted as a montonero militant. He is the author of “La Invasión Silenciosa” and “El Pueblo Não se Equivoca”.

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