Brazil and United States
The United States was the first nation to establish a consulate
in Brazil in 1808, following the transfer of the Portuguese royal
court to Rio
de Janeiro and the subsequent opening of the ports to foreign
ships. However, it was not until after World War II that the United
States became Brazil's number-one trading partner and foreign investor.
After 1945 United States-Brazil relations took on five basic dimensions:
promoting and protecting United States investments in and exports
to Brazil; promoting Brazil's exports of primary goods or products
and supporting Brazil's industrialization policies; garnering Brazil's
support for United States policy positions in the hemisphere and
in other world forums; promoting Brazil's emergence as a middle-level
world power in Latin America and the developing world; and showcasing
Brazil's successful independent foreign policy and autonomous development
strategy among its peers in the developing world.
During the presidency of Enrico Gaspar Dutra (1946-51), Brazil's
foreign policy was aligned closely with that of the United States.
Brazil outlawed the PCB (Brazilian Communist Party) in 1947 and
broke off relations with the Soviet Union. Vargas's return to power
in 1951 signaled a cooling of relations. Vargas blamed the United
States for his ouster in 1945 and appealed to Brazilian nationalism,
which was growing in many sectors, including the armed forces. The
Korean War and the European recovery were then high United States
priorities. Brazil was not at the time threatened by communism,
and United States arms sale policies equated formerly pro-Axis Argentina
with Brazil. Brazil's foreign policy of actively promoting its agricultural
exports, whose terms of trade (see Glossary) were diminishing, ran
counter to United States interests. The establishment of the Petrobrás
oil monopoly in 1953 crowned these nationalist sentiments and was
hailed as an economic declaration of independence from United States
oil companies. These sentiments were further fanned by charges of
United States involvement in Vargas's ouster and suicide in August
1954. His suicide note blamed "international economic and financial
President Kubitschek (1956-61) improved relations with the United
States, while strengthening relations with Latin America and Europe,
and exploring market possibilities in Eastern Europe. His industrial
development policy attracted huge direct investments by foreign
capital, much from the United States. He proposed an ambitious plan
for United States development aid to Latin America in 1958 (Operation
Panamerica). The outgoing administration of President Dwight D.
Eisenhower found the plan of no interest, but the administration
of President John F. Kennedy appropriated funds in 1961 for the
Alliance for Progress.
Relations again cooled slightly after President Quadros announced
his new independent foreign policy in January 1961. Quadros also
made overtures to Cuba and decorated Cuban revolutionary Ernesto
"Che" Guevara with Brazil's highest honor.
Severe economic problems, political and economic nationalism, union
populism, and strained relations with the United States frustrated
President Goulart, eventually causing his overthrow in 1964. Before
assuming the presidency, Goulart was known for having been a Vargas
protégé and for being pro-Fidel Castro, procommunist,
and antiforeign capital. However, during the first parliamentary
period (September 1961 to February 1963) of his presidency, Goulart
tried to maintain close relations with the United States by naming
strongly pro-United States Roberto Campos as ambassador in Washington
and Deputy Santiago Dantas as minister of foreign affairs. Nonetheless,
certain domestic and foreign policy issues clouded this relationship.
First, Goulart's brother-in-law, Leonel Brizola, then governor of
do Sul, insisted on expropriation of foreign-owned public utilities
(electric power and telephones), and nationalists in Congress pushed
for zero or minimum compensation. Second, Brazil joined Argentina,
Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, and Mexico in abstaining from a final vote
on an OAS resolution expelling Cuba from that organization. Third,
in August 1962, Congress approved a more restrictive law governing
profit remittances, and new foreign investments dwindled to almost
zero in early 1964.
In late 1963, Washington, alarmed that Brazil might become a hostile,
nonaligned power like Egypt, reduced foreign aid to Brazil. The
exact United States role in the March 31, 1964, military coup that
overthrew Goulart remains controversial. However, the United States
immediately recognized the new interim government (before Goulart
had even fled Brazilian territory); a United States naval task force
anchored close to the port of Vitória; the United States
made an immediate large loan to the new Castelo Branco government
(1964-67); and the new military president adopted a policy of total
alignment with the United States.
The Castelo Branco regime broke off relations with Cuba (while
enhancing them with the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe); purged
or exiled leftists and alleged communists; adopted a more discreet
position in the UN vis-à-vis Portuguese colonialism; duly
compensated expropriated foreign capital investments; passed a new
profit remittances law; and sent a 1,200-man battalion as part of
the Interamerican Peace Force to the Dominican Republic in 1965.
Brazilian foreign policy centered on combating subversion and contributing
to the collective security of the hemisphere. Brazil ranked third
after Vietnam and India as recipients of United States aid; it received
US$2 billion from 1964 to 1970. Nonetheless, Castelo Branco's all-out
support for United States policies only served to increase anti-Americanism
rather than to lessen it.
Divergence and some hostility characterized relations during the
Costa e Silva period (1967-69). Brazil perceived that United States
leadership in the global struggle was faltering because of the winding
down in Vietnam, making it more difficult for Brazil to support
United States positions in world forums. In 1969 the Richard M.
Nixon administration assumed a low-profile policy with Latin America.
Washington provided less economic aid and fewer arms shipments to
Brazil and sharply reduced its military mission in Brazil (from
200 in 1968 to sixty in 1971).
Although Costa e Silva did not turn to economic nationalism and
the climate for foreign investments remained generally favorable,
Brazil asserted its independence in other ways. It withdrew support
from the Interamerican Peace Force, declined to sign the NPT (Non-Proliferation
Treaty), tried to organize a Latin American nuclear community, assumed
a leadership role in the nonaligned G-77, and increased Soviet-Brazilian
trade. Nevertheless, Costa e Silva paid a state visit to Washington
in 1967, and in 1969 Brazil sided with the United States against
the nationalization of oil properties by the Peruvian military government.
The Médici and Geisel governments (1969-79) generally followed
the same course of increasingly independent foreign policy combined
with friendly relations with the United States. Brazil sought to
pursue its own advantages by leaving open its nuclear options, greatly
expanding trade with the Eastern Bloc, recognizing the Beijing government
four years before the United States normalized relations with mainland
China, and asserting a 322-kilometer maritime zone (always referred
to by Brazilians as "200 miles") contrary to United States
policy and fishing interests.
Brazil's policies emphasized North-South issues over the East-West
conflict. Brazil took the lead in organizing commodity cartels (coffee,
sugar, and cocoa). In 1975 Brazil voted for the UN resolution equating
Zionism with racism and did not condemn the Soviet and Cuban intervention
The Nixon administration remained basically sympathetic to Brazilian
hopes for growth and world power status, and considered Brazil to
be one of the developing world nations most sympathetic to the United
States. In February 1976, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and
Minister of Foreign Affairs Antônio Azeredo da Silveira signed
a memorandum of understanding that the two powers would consult
on all issues of mutual concern and would hold semiannual meetings
of foreign ministers. Brazil had signed similar agreements with
Britain, France, and Italy in 1975. Only Brazil and Saudi Arabia,
aside from the major Western allies, had such an agreement with
the United States. Although these agreements had no great practical
consequences, they indicated a changed United States policy of wooing
The Carter administration marked a definite cooling of United States-Brazil
relations. The confrontation involved two very sensitive issues--human
rights and nuclear proliferation. In 1967 Brazil had signed a contract
with Westinghouse to build a 626-megawatt nuclear power station
at Angra dos Reis, Rio
de Janeiro State, to be completed in 1977. In 1973-74 the petroleum
crisis jolted Brazil into a high-priority policy of seeking alternative
energy sources (hydro, solar, alcohol, biogas, Bolivian natural
gas, and nuclear).
However, the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission renounced
its guarantee of delivery of enriched uranium, casting doubts on
the value of nuclear cooperation with the United States, which had
prohibited Westinghouse from constructing enrichment and reprocessing
plants in Brazil.
Brazil, desiring independent control of the full cycle from ore
to kilowatts, signed a broad nuclear agreement with West Germany
in June 1975. It involved furnishing technology and equipment for
eight nuclear power plants, plus enrichment and reprocessing facilities.
Despite safeguard provisions, some thought this agreement opened
the door for Brazil to construct nuclear weapons, if desired. The
Ford administration reacted only mildly to the agreement, but from
his first day in office, President Carter sought to prevent its
In 1975 the United States Congress mandated that the Department
of State produce a general report on human rights performance by
all recipients of United States military assistance. The section
of the report dealing with Brazil noted some improvements and described
violations as mildly as possible. This report might have gone unnoticed
if the United States Embassy had not delivered a copy to the Foreign
Office in Brasília just hours before its release in Washington.
This gesture, intended as a courtesy, was interpreted as an intolerable
interference in Brazil's internal affairs. The next day, Brazil
renounced the United States-Brazil Military Assistance Agreement,
which had been in effect since 1952, and some military nationalists
pushed for breaking diplomatic relations. Formal relations between
the two military organizations have still not been reestablished.
The Reagan administration made ostensible gestures to improve relations
with Brazil. A former military attaché to Brazil during the
1964 coup, retired General Vernon Walters was dispatched to Brasília
to express United States concern over the Cuban-supported guerrilla
movement in El Salvador and to request support and assistance. Brazil
listened politely, but then refused to join the military governments
of Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile in support of the Salvadoran government.
Moreover, it increased trade credits to Nicaragua and signed several
large trade agreements with the Soviet Union.
In the early 1980s, tension in United States-Brazil relations centered
on economic questions. Retaliation for unfair trade practices loomed
on the horizon and threatened Brazilian
exports of steel, orange juice, commuter aircraft, frozen chickens,
shoes, and textiles. The United States criticized Brazil for its
trade restrictions and unfair practices (in the area of pharmaceutical
patents and restrictions on United States computer giants), and
for its US$5 billion trade surplus with the United States. Brazil
replied that it needed desperately to maintain large balance of
payments surpluses to meet its foreign debt obligations.
President Sarney took office in March 1985, political issues,
such as Brazil's arms exports to Libya and Iran, again surfaced.
Brazil's foreign debt moratorium and its refusal to sign the NPT
caused the United States Congress to put Brazil on its mandated
blacklist, thereby restricting Brazil's access to certain United
States technologies (see Nuclear Programs, ch. 6). On taking office
in March 1990,
President Collor sought a quick rapprochement with the United
States in order to begin an aggressive policy of inserting Brazil
into the world economy and placing it at the negotiating table of
world powers. Collor concluded a nonproliferation agreement with
Argentina, which was registered with the International Atomic Energy
Agency in Vienna. He moved to deactivate Brazil's autonomous nuclear
project and the nuclear submarine project, as well as the air-to-air
Piranha missile project. He also gained congressional approval for
eliminating the market reserve on computer products and beginning
tariff reductions. Collor abolished the National Intelligence Service
(Serviço Nacional de Informações--SNI) and
the National Security Council (CSN), and fashioned a Strategic Affairs
Secretariat (Secretaria de Assuntos Estratégicos--SAE) with
a civilian head. However, after a year in office the Collor government
concluded that these overtures had been in vain. Reciprocity by
the United States was not forthcoming, and Brazilian policies reverted
to a more pragmatic, independent approach.
administration maintained an even more independent stance and
reacted coolly to proposals by the Clinton administration for a
Latin American free-trade zone. Brazil pushed ahead with its Satellite
Launch Vehicle (Veículo Lançador de Satélite--VLS)
program, based in Alcântara, Maranhão. Because Brazil
wants to participate in the very lucrative satellite launching market,
it had consistently refused, until October 1995, to sign the MTCR
(Missile Technology Control Regime), which it believed restricted
developing nations from attaining access to this technology. In
June 1995, the Israeli military attaché in Brasília
denounced Brazil for continuing sales of Astros II surface-to-surface
missile launchers and heavy bombs to Libya, despite UN embargoes.
In October 1995, after continuous pressure from the United States,
Brazil finally met the conditions to join the MTCR and was accepted
as a member. Brazil joined the MTCR because it was necessary to
gain access to crucial rocket technology to finalize the VLS IV
and to ensure that it would become operational in 1997.
Relations with the Cardoso
government in 1995-97 were good. Cardoso made a very successful
trip to Washington and New York in April 1995, and the Clinton administration
was very enthusiastic regarding the passage of constitutional amendments
that open the Brazilian economy to increased international participation.
The United States was especially pleased with the break-up of state
monopolies in the petroleum and telecommunications sectors. However,
the United States called for increased efforts to stem international
drug smuggling across Brazil's territory from Andean neighbors,
and better coordination between the United States Drug Enforcement
Administration (DEA) and Brazilian authorities. In April 1995, Brasília
and Washington signed a new cooperation agreement.
Related to the problem of surveillance of drug smuggling across
the Amazon region was the controversial Amazon Region Surveillance
System (Sistema de Vigilância da Amazônia--Sivam) contract.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Brazil had installed three air surveillance
and traffic control systems in the South (Sul), Southeast, and Northeast,
purchased from Thomson CSF, the French electronics manufacturer.
In the 1990s, several international consortiums, including Thomson
CSF, hotly contested the proposed Sivam contract (worth US$1.5 billion).
A timely visit by United States Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown
in June 1994 heavily influenced the decision, and two days after
his departure, the Brazilian government decided in favor of a consortium
led by the American firm Raytheon, instead of Thomson CSF. United
States incentives included very favorable Export-Import Bank financing
and assurance that Raytheon would participate in the privatization
of the Brazilian Aeronautics Company (Empresa Brasileira Aeronáutica--Embraer),
which never happened.
In 1995, before the final signing of the contracts with Raytheon,
Brazil's Congress, under pressure from environmental groups and
the governors of the Amazon region, decided to review the decision
process and contract details. Under intense pressure from the United
States Embassy in Brasília, however, the Brazilian Senate
and Chamber of Deputies finally approved the plan in May 1995, over
protests from the governors from the Amazon region.
In response to United States criticism over its unfair trade practices
and its failure to protect intellectual property rights, Brazil
finally signed a new patent protection law in March 1996. The new
law includes protection for pharmaceutical patents and contains
a "pipeline" mechanism. The United States also looks to
Brazil to fulfill its longstanding commitments to enact legislation
on computer software and semiconductor layout design, and to introduce
amendments to its copyright laws.
* * *
The best general treatments of the Brazilian political scene are
Ben Ross Schneider's Politics Within the State: Elite Bureaucrats
and Industrial Policy in Authoritarian Brazil , Robert Wesson and
David V. Fleischer's Brazil in Transition , Gláucio A.D.
Soares's Sociedade e política no Brasil , Riordan Roett's
Brazil: Politics in a Patrimonial Society , Ronald M. Schneider's
Order and Progress: A Political History of Brazil , and Thomas E.
Skidmore's Politics in Brazil and The Politics of Military Rule
in Brazil .
Good descriptive works on the structure of the Brazilian government
are not available. For a specific treatment of Congress, see Abdo
I. Baaklini's The Brazilian Legislature and the Political System
. There are few adequate treatments of state and local governments.
There is also a dearth of publications on the process of the political
opening (abertura ) and transition in Brazil. Keith S. Rosenn's
Whither Brazil: The Consolidation of Democracy in Brazil after the
Impeachment of President Collor is a collection of papers on the
period. The only publication to record Itamar Franco's presidency
was written by his stalwart adviser, Ferreira de Castro, and is
entitled Itamar: O homen que redescobriu o Brasil . Although the
influence of media on politics is extremely important in Brazil,
few thorough analyses exist. Fernando Morais's Chatô, o rei
do Brasil describes the empire built by Assis Chateaubriand in the
1940s and 1950s.
Hélgio Trindade edited a very good collection of papers
on election reform in the 1990s, entitled Reforma eleitoral e representação
política no Brasil dos anos 90 . There has been considerable
scholarship published on Brazilian political parties. Fleischer
edited two volumes of studies on the 1945-79 period, entitled Os
partidos políticos no Brasil . Maria D'Alva Gil Kinzo's Brazil:
The Challenges of the 1990s and Jairo Marconi Nicolau's Multipartidarismo
e democracia are more recent analyses.
There is considerable scholarship on Brazil's international relations.
In his memoirs, A lanterna na pôpa , former Ambassador Roberto
Campos provides an overview since Bretton Woods. Mercosul has a
growing bibliography, most notable of which is a compilation by
the new Brazilian Council of International Affairs (Conselho Brasileiro
de Relações Internacionais), entitled Mercosul . Other
useful works on Mercosul include Luiz Alberto Moniz Bandeira's Estado
nacional e política internacional na América Latina
, and Rubens Barbosa's América Latina em perspectiva . Rubens
Ricupero's Visões do Brasil: Ensaios sobre a historia e a
inserção internacional do Brasil is an excellent account
by one of Brazil's most distinguished diplomats. Finally, Brazil-United
States relations have received considerable attention. Frank D.
McCann's The Brazilian-American Alliance gives an overview from
the early 1900s. W. Michael Weis's Cold Warriors and Coups d'État
reviews the Cold War period. Maria Helena Tachinardi's A guerra
das patentes analyzes the computer and intellectual property rights
Data as of April 1997