Former Brazilian president Fernando Enrique Cardoso said that his country is rapidly loosing [sic] influence in South America to Venezuela, following on remarks about the suspension of Paraguay from Mercosur.
“Brazil is loosing [sic] influence: before we had undisputed, automatic and non announced influence in the region”, said Cardoso from the opposition Social Democracy of Brazil party, PSDB, in an interview with the magazine Veja, which has the largest circulation in the country.
“Now with Hugo Chavez in Venezuela another pole of influence has been created and I am under the impression that Brazil does not want to counter him, it’s as if we belonged to the same family, he’s my cousin, he’s a ‘lefty’, I would prefer he wasn’t but he is my cousin. Brazil represses itself in taking decisions so as not to be seen as someone outside the family”, argued Cardoso.
“There was a lack of diplomacy to address the Paraguayan situation, and not only from Brazil. Anyway if I had a say, I would say the suspension of Paraguay must be avoided when there is only ten months of government left. The action in Paraguay was thundering, politically inconvenient, but it was not illegal” underlined the former president.
Cardoso has often said hackish things since his party lost to the PT in 2002 and Lula succeeded him as president (followed by the PT’s Dilma Rousseff in 2010). Still, this is particularly ridiculous, for any number of reasons. First, Brazil is still a powerful actor in the region, and Venezuela, with its smaller population, smaller economy, smaller regional influence, and so forth, does not exactly threaten; nor does Brazil need to be a total hegemon to shape regional politics, trade policies, etc. Secondly, Cardoso’s evaluation of Brazil’s diplomatic failure completely overlooks the actual process that led to the expulsion of Paraguay from Mercosur, since Brazil used its regional authority and diplomatic influence to deter Argentina’s efforts to impose sanctions on Paraguay (thus suggesting that, contrary to Cardoso’s belief, Brazil still exercises no small authority). And that’s to say nothing of Brazil’s more moderate and nuanced approach to the removal of Fernando Lugo compared to more immediate reactions from Argentina, Ecuador, and Venezuela. Regardless of what one thinks of the suspension of Paraguay from Mercosur, it’s certainly a more diplomatic approach than total sanctions, making his claims Brazil that did not demonstrate any “diplomacy” in dealing with Paraguay visibly and patently ridiculous.
But of course, none of this is surprising from Cardoso at this point. Cardoso has long allowed his personal contempt and distaste for the PT and for its leaders to make hackishly partisan claims that have no substance whatsoever, often even resorting to baseless personal insults. There are very real and legitimate criticisms people can level against Lula, Dilma, and/or the PT. But those criticisms do not and most likely never will come from an inexplicably spiteful Cardoso, as he has once again reminded us.