Specialists discuss relations between Brazil and the United States

Recent changes, public opinion, disparities and the importance of expanding knowledge in relations between the countries are highlighted at FAPESP Week

By Heitor Shimizu, in Raleigh

Agência FAPESP – The importance of collaboration between Brazil and the United States in various fields was the subject of a panel of specialists this past Tuesday (11/12), second day of FAPESP Week North Carolina, in Raleigh, North Carolina.

The panel was chaired by Anthony Harrington, Chair of the Advisory Council of the Brazil Institute of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and former U.S. Ambassador to Brazil, who began the discussions by essay helper emphasizing that Brazil had long been considered “the black hole of U.S. diplomacy,” but that relations between the two countries “have definitely improved since the first presidential term of Fernando Henrique Cardoso.”

Carlos Eduardo Lins da Silva, editor of Política Externa magazine and FAPESP Communication Advisor, was the first speaker. He provided a brief overview of political relations between the United Stats and Brazil. “Historically, it has been a good although not always strong relationship, but it became much more important during the Second World War when Brazil was the only Latin American country to send troops to Europe,” he said.

“After that, there were times when relations cooled, like in the 1970s, when Brazil signed a nuclear energy agreement with Germany and when the U.S. government, particularly during the Carter administration, helped Brazilians who were against the military government then in power in Brazil,” he said.

The scenario changed in the last two decades with the improvement in relations between the two countries, says Lins da Silva. However, there was another critical time that tested relations in 2010 when Iran signed a nuclear agreement proposed by Brazil and Turkey to send uranium to Turkey for enrichment.

“Barack Obama and Dilma Rousseff were working to improve relations when the NSA [National Security Agency] matter occurred. Rousseff called off her visit, which was scheduled for December and which would have been the first for a Brazilian president to the U.S. since the administration of Fernando Henrique Cardoso,” he said.

“Regardless of the political issues, Brazil and the United States have maintained a good relationship for two centuries, highlighted by the strong exchange of artists, athletes, scientists and citizens of both countries. And holding FAPESP Week North Carolina is an important example of this relationship,” said Lins da Silva.

Richard Mahoney, Director of the School of Public and International Affairs at North Carolina State University, then spoke about the research project entitled, “Trade Liberalization, and Energy Joint-Venturing between Brazil and the United States,” which he coordinates.

“Clark Kerr [1911-2003], the great U.S. scholar and president of the University of California, put forward the Convergence Theory in the 1960s, which identified the reasons why industrial societies integrate or disintegrate. Kerr’s ideas advanced the revolution in convergence that occurred later and was given the name ‘European Union’,” he said.

The Convergence Theory holds that industrial systems would converge in their social, political and economic systems because of the determinant effects of technological development.

“According to the Convergence Theory, we can take Brazil and the United States, and say that there are many things we do not know about relations between the two countries. We tend to consider mainly the official political details, ranking the times as positive or negative, but there are many other forces in action, including several that we are not aware of,” said Mahoney.

“In relations between the U.S. and Brazil, we can separate the convergence into three aspects. The first is institutionalization of communication and collaboration. The second is the definition of an agenda, in other words, the formalization of objectives through bilateral agreements to institutionalize the sharing of market power, rules and laws, and open trade flows,” he said.

“The third aspect is the paradigm shift, which involves integrating societies through a far-reaching flow of culture, education, business and other areas,” said Mahoney.

Public opinion

Amancio Nunes de Oliveira, professor in the Department of Political Science at the School of Philosophy, Literature and Human Sciences (FFLCH) of the University of São Paulo (USP) and Mark Nance, professor in the School of Public and International Affairs at NC State, talked about public opinion in relations between the United States and Brazil.

Oliveira and Nance coordinated a study entitled, “Americas and the World,” in which researchers interviewed 2,000 people in Brazil in 2011. An additional 200 people were also interviewed in a group called “the international relations community,” made up of politicians, business people, academics, journalists, union members and others.

One of the indicators obtained by the study was about “strategic importance and international role.” Among those interviewed, the country mentioned most often was the United States (93% of mentions) followed by China (91%), Argentina (90%), India (79%), Japan (77%) and Germany (75%).

“But when asked if they thought global strategic importance would increase or decrease among the countries ten years hence, only 14.5% of those interviewed said that the importance of the United States would increase,” said Oliveira. In contrast, China was mentioned most often, by 95.5% of those interviewed, as the country that would have increased strategic importance.

Another question in the study was about how political orientation influenced opinion with regard to bilateral agreements. When asked if they considered it more important to have agreements with the United States or with other Latin American countries, 23% of those interviewed whose political orientation leaned to the left said the United States, compared with 77% who thought priority should be given to relations between Brazil and other Latin American countries.

Among those interviewed whose political orientation leaned to the right, the opposite was observed: 43% selected Latin American countries compared to 57% who thought that it was more important for Brazil to have agreements with the United States.

Social and racial disparities

In concluding the panel discussion, Kia Caldwell, professor in the Department of African, African American, and Diaspora Studies at University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, spoke about the study entitled, “The Alyne Case: Gender, Race, and the Human Right to Health in Brazil,” conducted in collaboration with Edna Maria de Araújo from the State University of Feira de Santana.

Using the case of Alyne da Silva Pimentel – who died in November 2002 at the age of 28, in her sixth month of pregnancy, five days after being admitted to a public hospital in the city of Rio de Janeiro and not receiving proper care –, the study researched the question of racial disparity in maternal mortality.

The Alyne case, said Caldwell, had tremendous repercussions and led to Brazil’s being condemned under the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women for violating the human rights of pregnant women.

The decision established that the Brazilian government had to compensate the family of Alyne da Silva Pimentel, guarantee the right to emergency obstetric care and offer appropriate professional training to public health providers.

“The circumstances that led to the death of Alyne highlight the severe disparities and defects in the quality of emergency obstetric care offered in Brazil to low income individuals,” said Caldwell.

According to the research Caldwell and Araújo conducted in the southern, southeastern and central-western regions of Brazil, the rates of maternal mortality were – in 2010 data – two to three times higher for black women then for white.

“Another study conducted earlier in the decade found that the maternal mortality rate for black women or mulattas was 11.28% for every 100,000 live births while that for white women was 5.42%,” Caldwell said. “Maternal mortality was the second leading cause of death among black women in the state of São Paulo.”

“With regard to maternal mortality in Brazil, we can say that there is no such thing as rights for half, negligence for half or death for half,” said Caldwell. The NC State researcher writes about issues of race and gender, including Negras in Brazil: Re-envisioning Black Women, Citizenship, and the Politics of Identity, published in 2007.