BRASILIA - Brazilian diplomacy is set to perform an abrupt 180-degree turn under new Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo, chosen by far-right President-elect Jair Bolsonaro for his views favoring the U.S. while turning away from China as part of a fierce opposition to multilateralism.
A little-known career diplomat who has never even held an ambassadorial role, the 51-year-old Araujo shares Bolsonaro’s passion for anti-China vitriol and skepticism over climate change.
“The ideas he professes display a massive break” with diplomacy, said Fernanda Magnotta, a specialist in international relations at FAAP, one of the top higher education institutions in Sao Paulo.
Once his surprise appointment was announced last week, analysts gorged on Araujo’s Metapolitica 17 blog that raged “against globalization.”
Lauded as “a brilliant intellectual” by Bolsonaro, Araujo has been bold in his radical stances: chauvinism allied to the virulent rejection of multilateralism and “cultural Marxism” that has “influenced the scientific dogma of global warming.”
Brazil has “given up being a great power” due to its “obedience to the world order,” Araujo says on his blog.
“The ultimate aim of globalization is to break the link between God and man.”
Just like Bolsonaro, Araujo is a fervent admirer of U.S. President Donald Trump, whom he believes can “save the West.”
He’s even gone so far as to adapt Trump’s “America First” slogan into “Brazil First.”
Such close ties between the two countries would allow Washington to further isolate its socialist foes Cuba and Venezuela, which enjoyed better relationships under Brazil’s 13-year reign of the Workers Party (PT) or “Project Totalitarianism” as Araujo renamed it.
And the closer ties to China that were encouraged under the PT’s iconic but now-jailed leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will likely be reeled in unceremoniously.
Araujo believes Brazil must resist a China “that will dominate the world.”
Bolsonaro had already alienated China by accusing the world’s second-biggest economy of “buying Brazil,” and then turning his attentions to Taiwan, which he visited in February.
Beijing considers Taiwan a renegade province.
By burning bridges built under the Lula government, “we’re going to see a very close alignment with the American regime,” said Monica Herz, a professor of international relations at Rio de Janeiro’s PUC Catholic university.
“The relationships with Latin America could suffer. The biggest worry is China but also Europe,” which Araujo has branded as “culturally empty.”
Bolsonaro, advised by Araujo, will be playing a dangerous game.
“To ignore the importance of China or the Arab world could be devastating not just in diplomatic terms but also for the Brazilian economy,” said Magnotta.
Brazil is the largest exporter of halal meat and the pledged transfer of its Israeli embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is a deeply unpopular move — one already taken by Trump — among majority-Muslim Arab countries.
Likewise, China’s importance to Brazil’s production industry is unquestionable.
“In 2017, China was the first market for Brazilian exports with $47 billion in revenue, from soy to iron,” said Magnotta.
Alienating China would likely be an unpopular move in Brazil’s Congress.
Bolsonaro’s controversial measures could face “strong resistance, in particular from his economic team and the agrobusiness lobby,” whose support in Congress he needs to be able to govern.
Similarly, Araujo’s own views face “strong opposition” in the foreign office, where there is a “tradition based on the principles of multilateralism.”
Araujo is unlikely to promote bilateral domestic political harmony either, as his hatred of the PT is rivaled only by Bolsonaro’s.
On his blog, he has accused the PT of “criminalizing everything that is good and pure: family, private property, heterosexual sex, belief in God and patriotism … even red meat, air conditioning, oil and all efficient and cheap energy” in the name of global warming.
Bolsonaro, who pledged to quit the Paris Climate Accord, now has a powerful fellow global warming skeptic at his side.
For Herz, Araujo was picked because he “clearly expresses the world vision” that Bolsonaro espouses.
“They were looking for someone who speaks to their foundation, with ultraconservative values and strong interaction between religion and politics.”
According to Herz, Araujo’s presence in the Bolsonaro government will only serve to ensure that Brazil’s “relationships with many parties around the world will suffer.”