Opinion – Rubens Barbosa: Experienced, Mauro Vieira will face challenges inside and outside Itamaraty in Lula’s government


There was no surprise in the appointment of Ambassador Mauro Vieira to Itamaraty. He is one of the most successful diplomats of his generation. Skillful, serious, competent, he was a minister in the government of Dilma Rousseff (PT), ambassador in Buenos Aires, with the United Nations and in Washington and secretary general of the Itamaraty. He therefore has experience and deep knowledge of diplomatic issues.

This does not mean that it will not have to face major internal and external challenges. In a few moments in the past, foreign policy played such an important role in defining Brazil’s place in the world, restoring the country’s credibility and rectifying the negative external perception of its future.

The Foreign Minister, as of January 1, 2023, will have the historic responsibility of reestablishing the role of the House of Rio Branco as the main formulator and executor of foreign policy. In addition, strengthen the role of coordinator of the Brazilian government’s external actions with the other ministries. And, following the example of the Baron of Rio Branco, patron of Brazilian diplomacy, to maintain, above ideological and partisan interests, the permanent lines of foreign action as a State policy, not a shift government.

The world has changed, and Brazil has changed, since the moment Mauro Vieira directed foreign policy destinations in 2015. Geopolitics today influences national decisions as few times before. Faced with the possible division of the world between democracies and autocracies, promoted by the US, foreign policy should maintain a position of independence, without automatic alignment to either side.

Nobody questions the fact that Brazil is a western country in terms of values ​​and principles, but today it depends economically and commercially on Asia, especially China. National interests must take precedence over ideological or partisan considerations.

The new minister will lead the Itamaraty at a time when president-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT) announced that Brazil is back to play a leading role on the international stage. Motivating the diplomatic staff with the modernization of work at the chancellery and with reforms in the structure of the house, which will make work more agile and efficient, will certainly be among his internal priorities.

Mauro Vieira must promote a profound change in Brazilian diplomatic action, according to Lula’s public orientation. External action will have as its central concern the engagement of foreign policy in environmental issues and climate change, starting from the Amazon.

For the first time since independence, Brazil is one of the main actors in a global issue, and the Itamaraty’s response to this challenge will make the country once again have the leading role it had from Rio-92 until 2018. Environmental diplomacy can be one of the main marks of the future management at Itamaraty.

The multilateral agenda in defense of democracy and human rights —especially gender rights—, of indigenous peoples, the elderly and children, health, the fight against drug trafficking and terrorism within the framework of the United Nations will rely on the experience of the new minister.

The commercial agenda, in the negotiations of free trade agreements, especially with the European Union and in the context of Mercosur, should configure another priority, along with the work to strengthen the WTO. Regional integration, of such importance to Brazil and forgotten in the last four years, must be given priority, and Brazil’s voice will be heard in the region and in regional organizations.

Hemispheric relations, with the US, with Latin American and South American countries, given the priorities announced by Lula, will play a prominent role, in particular the issue of democratization and human rights in Venezuela, instability in Haiti and bilateral understandings with Argentina.

Given the importance of the economic and commercial relationship with China and the prospects for expanding exchanges with Asia, this aspect of foreign policy will certainly have immense relevance.

Among others, three challenges will be on Mauro Vieira’s table from day one: the signing of the Free Trade Agreement with the European Union, negotiations for Brazil’s entry into the OECD and friction within the Mercosur scope due to attitudes unilateral measures taken by the Uruguayan government.

It remains to be seen whether Mauro Vieira will innovate and choose a woman, for the first time, to occupy the General Secretariat of the Itamaraty.

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