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Brazil, BRICS and the defence of the Global South

Leaders of Russia, China, Brazil, India and South Africa have gathered in Brasila for the BRICS Leaders Summit, in Brasilia, Brazil, November,13,2019. [Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images]
Leaders of Russia, China, Brazil, India and South Africa have gathered in Brasila for the BRICS Leaders Summit, in Brasilia, Brazil, November,13,2019. [Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images]

Rarely in the history of mankind does something positive come out of the nerve centre of financial capital and speculative parasites. The BRICS idea may be a rare exception in this regard, at least on the discursive level. The acronym for Brazil, Russia, India and China — BRIC was formulated by Jim O'Neill in a 2001 study entitled "Building Better Global Economic BRICs". He was then chief economist at investment bank Goldman Sachs, the same institution as Henry Hank Paulson, central to the 2007 and 2008 housing bubble, fraudulent balance sheets and the transition negotiated with the Democratic Party when Obama was elected. At the time, the three major countries of the Eurasian axis — Russia, India and China, still called "emerging markets" — in company with Brazil, were seen as providing a wealth of opportunities for capitalist expansion. The concept was established as a category for analysis in the most relevant of the economic-financial, business, academic and communication sectors

The grouping itself appeared in 2006, incorporated into the foreign policy of Brazil, Russia, India and China. South Africa joined in late 2010 and attended the third summit, when the acronym BRICS was finally adopted. Although not a formal alliance, the countries come together to serve common interests in the regions where they exercise direct influence, which means a lot in the global picture.

This month, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro participated in the 12th BRICS Summit held online due to the pandemic. Along with Chancellor Ernesto Araújo, Special Adviser for international affairs Filipe Martins and the president's son, Federal Deputy Eduardo Bolsonaro, he is an avid fan of the self-titled philosopher Olavo de Carvalho, whose only expertise is as an astrologer. This alleged guru is an enthusiast of an "anti-globalist cultural war" and a defender of the West against other "civilisations". There can be nothing positive about this type of influence on national foreign policy.

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During the summit, Bolsonaro insinuated a rapprochement with Russia, perhaps because he idolises "strong men" and needs to change his hero-worship from Trump to Putin. China was discreet and distant; it remains Brazil's largest trading partner.

Brazilian president-elect Jair Bolsonaro in Brasilia, Brazil on 7 November 2018 [EVARISTO SA/AFP/Getty Images]

The then-Brazilian president-elect Jair Bolsonaro in Brasilia, Brazil on 7 November 2018 [EVARISTO SA/AFP/Getty Images]

Junior has defended US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's proposal for the implementation of a 5G telecommunications system under Washington's control. Such "diplomacy" undermines Brazil's mature, proud and active position in the international community.

One way forward for Brazil is to expand its participation in strategic projects and affirm its partnerships in this regard. A starting point would be to strengthen the position of the New Development Bank and thus resume the activities of the Bank of the South as an instrument of the South American countries through the largely non-functional Union of South American Nations (UNASUR). In this way, Brazil would be able to finance large scale joint projects and interconnect its territories, while respecting popular sovereignty and the ancestral rights of the original peoples. At the same time, we would strengthen evidently anti-imperialist positions on our continent, such as those in Venezuela, as well as with Iran, which is experiencing an economic blockade and, latterly, terrorist attacks by Israel's Mossad spy agency.

Brazil's presence on the international stage through an independent foreign policy must be accompanied by an alliance with the South American, Latin American and Caribbean countries. There could also be links with several African countries, Portuguese-speaking as well as South Africa and other African states that have the important support of the Brazilian Cooperation Agency.

Domestically and internationally, it is necessary to remove capital's hegemony, especially its control over key positions in the Brazilian state and monetary authority. Brazil will be able to operate as a geopolitical pivot and have some geostrategic projections, as long as we have some consensus in this regard. The formation of regional alliances and momentum in the BRICS can be fundamental to reinforcing economic cooperation between peers, creating a global economic impact to promote the interests of Brazil and the rest of the group.

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It also seems evident that Brazil should prepare for China's control of the world economy. We have room for negotiations within the Sino-American dispute and we can condition trade deals by following the same criterion as the purchase of military equipment.

The BRICS may also strengthen Brazil's role in leading international efforts to defend democracy, fundamental freedoms and human rights. In this sense, it would form an important space to overcome the hypocritical relationship with colonial Apartheid promoted by Israel and the unconditional support of the United States for crimes against the Palestinians in the occupied Gaza Strip and West Bank. It is important to counter America's claim to be the guarantor of human rights by exposing the fact that it is the biggest violator of such rights, not least in the infamous Guantanamo Bay "detention centre", which occupies sovereign Cuban territory.

It is necessary to increase the influence of the BRICS group over various security issues and international terrorism, and stopping imperialist aggression through NATO. Brazil could play a strategic role in this regard, avoiding potential regional conflicts between neighbouring countries and countering the hegemonic presence of US and British forces in the so-called Atlantic Shield. To this end, it is necessary to establish military agreements with the countries that share the Atlantic Ocean in its southern half, increase the activity of the South Atlantic Peace and Cooperation Zone (Zopacas), a 1986 UN initiative in which Brazil is a major player.

Brazil has about 16 million citizens of Arab origin, and Russia, China and India have large Muslim populations; South Africa's Muslims, although a small minority, are influential. The BRICS, therefore, must project an effective role in the issues of the member countries of the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. With historical ties to Lebanon and Syria, Brazil should be present in regional security arrangements and UNIFIL, to protect both sovereign countries from the aggression of the colonial State of Israel. The same is true in the defence of a free, sovereign and independent Palestinian state. Finally, the BRICS can play a fundamental role in the Greater Middle East, with a naval presence in the Mediterranean, the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf, as well as protecting strategic reserves.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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