You are on page 1of 17

5º Encontro Nacional da ABRI

Redefinindo a Diplomacia em um Mundo em Transformação

29 a 31 de Julho de 2015
Belo Horizonte – MG – Brasil

Análise de Política Externa



Danillo Alarcon
Pontifícia Universidade Católica de Goiás
Dilma Rousseff’s Presidency and Arab Countries: an overlooked foreign policy?

ABSTRACT: Despite her poor results in terms of foreign policy, Brazilian President Dilma
Rousseff has been applying the constitutional principles of the country’s international
relations. Nonetheless, in a country such as Brazil, where the president usually has a great
amount of power, particularly because of the “presidential diplomacy” of both Fernando
Henrique Cardoso and Lula da Silva, Rousseff has had problems to operationalize her
foreign policy objectives, if there are any critics could argue on. One exemplificative case
happened in the second half of 2014, when she openly criticized the United States and its
allies attacks against the Islamic State. Brazilian media was not sympathetic to her. It is
clear, from a Foreign Policy Analysis standpoint, that her speech was not aimed at denying
the horrific acts of the so-called terrorist organization, but at trying to bring back respect for
international law and the United Nations role in those situations. However, according to
Christopher Hill, the decision-making process in a democracy has to bear in mind a great
amount of constituencies, from the media, that has a huge influence on public opinion, to the
finance donors of elections and all other kinds of activities. In this sense, the objective of this
paper is to analyze Rousseff’s administration relations with Arab Countries, specially
focusing on the country’s view on the Arab Spring movements and its subsequent
consequences. The president’s speeches at the opening of the United Nations General
Assemblies (and other deemed necessary) and data from think tanks and governmental
institutes about trade between Brazil and Arab Countries will be useful in the research. The
hypothesis here presented is that the Brazilian positions did not dramatically change, but
what lacked was leadership in foreign affairs as the country, pledging the status of a global
power, didn’t have the resources to do so.

Keywords: Brazil; Rousseff; Foreign Policy; Arab Countries


President Lula da Silva’s Foreign Policy (FP) was remarkably outstanding in some
aspects. He developed, together with his Chancellor Celso Amorim, an active foreign policy
aimed at the international insertion of Brazilian companies together with a South-South
emphasis on the global political agenda. However, his successor, Dilma Rousseff, from the
same party (“Partido dos Trabalhadores” – PT, in Portuguese) has been criticized for being
lofty and clumsy when it comes to operationalizing her foreign policy principles – developed
first with Antonio Patriota, and later with Luiz Alberto Figueiredo as Ministers of External
Relations –, both due to internal and external constraints (CERVO; LESSA, 2014.
CORNETET, 2014).
In that sense, it is imperative to analyze how the country has been dealing with its
various partners. With regard to the Arab Countries, Brazilian relations have as a remarking
point the 1970s. There were obvious economic needs in both sides, but they managed to
work on a political agenda as well. Already in the XXI century, President Lula launched in
2004 the initiative to host an Arab and South American countries Summit in Brazil, which was
held in Brasília in 20051. The ASPA Summits (América do Sul – Países Árabes, in
Portuguese) were an important occasion for political understanding, but they also were a
good opportunity for business. Pragmatism has always been, in that sense, the key to
understand Brazil’s relations towards its Arabs counterparts.
Dilma Rousseff, however, had to face more difficulties when dealing with these
partners. The “Arab Spring” erupted in December 2010 in Tunisia and lead to a political
overturn in the region. Ben Ali (Tunisia), Hosni Mubarak (Egypt) and Muammar al-Qaddafi
(Libya) were ousted from power. Bashar Al-Assad (Syria) is facing a deadly civil war,
followed by the rise in mid-2014 of the so-called “Islamic State”, that not only grabbed the
opportunity to raise itself from the dust left of the Iraq War (2003) but also seized the moment
to gather important gains in the civil war scenario. In the second half of 2014, when Dilma
openly criticized the United States and its allies’ attacks against the Islamic State, Brazilian
media was not sympathetic to her. It is clear, from a Foreign Policy Analysis standpoint, that
her speech was not meant to deny the horrific acts of the so-called terrorist organization, but
it aimed at trying to bring back respect for international law and the United Nations role in
those situations, which are the principles Brazil stands for.
Thus, the objective of this paper is to analyze Rousseff’s administration relations with
Arab Countries, specially focusing on the country’s view on the Arab Spring movements and

Two other summits were held: the second, in Doha (2009); the third, in Lima (2012). According to
information at the Brazilian Foreign Affairs Ministry website, the fourth is going to happen in Riyadh
(Saudi Arabia), in 2015.

its subsequent consequences. The president’s speeches at the opening of the United
Nations General Assemblies (and other documents deemed necessary) and data from think
tanks and governmental institutes will be useful in the research. The hypothesis here
presented is that Brazil’s positions did not dramatically change, but what lacked was
leadership in foreign affairs as the country, pledging the status of a global power, didn’t have
the resources to do so.
Brazil even attempted, with Minister Antonio Patriota (2011), to launch the principle of
“responsibility while protecting” (RwP). It will be discussed in the paper that, even though it
was well received by some part of the international community, there were other factors that
overshadowed it. Brazil is facing the maturation of its democracy, and, as it will be advanced
further in the next pages, that ought to bring more interest groups into the foreign policy
debate. However, this is not a setback for the country’s FP, but it will bring considerable
As democracy was mentioned above, a few considerations regarding it and foreign
policy are going to be made. It is important to notice that Brazil’s international relations are
determined by fundamental principles established in its 1988 constitution. The document was
the result of a long process towards the democratization of the country. According to Juan
Linz and Alfred Stepan (1999), president Sarney, who was in power when the 1988
constitution was drafted, still had to deal with the armed forces meddling in the government
issues, as he was the first civil president to serve after the military regime. For instance, he
had six military ministers which influenced at the Constitutional Assembly. The president and
the Army, in the end, agreed not to support parliamentarism and that strongly affected how
the country’s international relations would be conducted in the 1990s and beginning of the
However, the aforementioned 1988 constitution clearly and irrevocably brought in its
fourth article the commanding principles of the country’s international relations:

I – national independence;
II – prevalence of human rights;
III – self-determination of the peoples;
IV – non-intervention;
V – equality among the states;
VI – defense of peace;
VII – peaceful settlement of conflicts;
VIII – repudiation of terrorism and racism;
IX – cooperation among peoples for the progress of mankind;
X – granting of political asylum (BRASIL, 1988, p. 13).

What this article expresses is in accordance with the country’s tradition in foreign
policy. Thus, Dilma Rousseff’s choices and actions in foreign policy, even though they were
somehow criticized, were in accordance with these principles. Her position towards the
“Islamic State” issue in 2014 is symbolic in that sense. A critical analysis of it as it is here

presented, goes hand in hand with what Charles Lister (2014, p. 3) pointed out: “the key to
undermining IS’s [Islamic State] long-term sustainability (…) is to solve the socio-political
failures within its areas of operation”. It seems that even though there has been less Brazilian
proactivity in the international arena, the country does not seem to have lost its enduring
constitutional international relations principles and its sensitivity towards the need for
development and self-determination of the Global South.

1. Brazil’s Foreign Policy towards Arab Countries: from the 1970s to the ASPA

The approximation between Brazil and the Arab countries, with the exception of the
large migration flows, mainly of Syrians and Lebanese in the late XIX century, deepened in
the 1970s. Already in 1969, Itamaraty (as the Brazilian Foreign Ministry office is called)
started to shape itself to deal better with the opportunities presented by those far, but
possible, partners (CERVO; BUENO, 2008, p. 423). Despite the dynamics of the region (the
Gulf, for example only became effectively independent from the United Kingdom in the late
1960s), Brazil remained attentive to the possibilities of economic and diplomatic relations
with the area in question. At the end of 1973, Brazil had already opened embassies in Iraq,
which would become an important partner in the following years, and in Saudi Arabia.
As Élodie Brun (2012) mentioned, Brazil only began seeking true partnership with
Arab Countries during the 1970s, mainly for economic reasons. The country was dependent
on oil imports from Iraq and Saudi Arabia due to its fast growing GDP rate (at least until the
beginning of the 1980s). Those years, when Brazil was ruled by military presidents, were
unambiguously marked by a pragmatic view of the country’s foreign policy, which forced the
opening of new opportunities in the international arena, both for financing the process of
industrialization Brazil was facing and to sell its surplus.
This is connected to the pragmatism President Emílio Médici tried to bring to the
country’s foreign policy. As Cervo and Bueno (2008, p. 387) pointed out, “[p]ragmatism
would have to be guided by circumstances, without dichotomies and straightjackets. There
would be no exclusionary choice between bilateralism and multilateralism, neither between
the West nor the Third World, nor the alignment or disagreement, for this or that ideology”2.
Nonetheless, as Brun (2012, p. 76) affirmed, Brasilia had to make political
concessions in order to gain advantages from the trade with Arab partners. Positioning itself
with the Palestinian cause was one of those. That, however, should not be read as a pure

From the original: “O pragmatismo haveria de guiar-se pelas circunstâncias, sem admitir dicotomias
e camisas-de-força. Sem opções exclusivistas pelo bilateralismo ou multilateralismo, pelo Ocidente ou
pelo Terceiro Mundo, pelo alinhamento ou divergência, por essa ou aquela ideologia” (CERVO;
BUENO, 2008, p. 387).

exception. Brazilian foreign policy during the Military Regime was mostly nationalistic3 and
considering national interest as a whole. It was more of a learning moment for the country –
requiring bargains – than a submission to the decision or impositions of a group or single
country. Actually, that was precisely what Brazil was trying to avoid during the 1970’s,
especially because, as Cervo and Bueno (2008) indicated, its relation with the United States
(USA) was not in good shape.
The 1980s witnessed more creativity from the Brazilian foreign policy-makers. The
Iraq-Iran war was going on and Brasília continued selling products to Bagdad, including
weapons. According to Cervo and Bueno (2008, p. 447), “the Brazilian engineering services
were asked to interpose with renewed assurance, in oil exploration, road construction,
military assistance, and entered some countries like Iraq, Libya and Saudi Arabia, paving the
way for major contracts and large arms deals4”. The commercial flow between the regions
saw a drop to very low levels from the end of the 1980s to the end of the 1990s. During the
democratic transition there was actually short interest in the region (BRUN, 2012; CERVO;
BUENO, 2008).
In the early 2000s, with the terrorist attacks and the subsequent US invasion of Iraq in
2003, for a brief moment it seemed that the Arab political agenda was once again going to be
imposed by the United States. However, with the political weight of then Brazilian president,
Lula da Silva, with the anti-American speech coming from Iran, Syria and Libya, and the less
submissive position of even the most traditional USA partners, dissatisfied with the Iraq
invasion (2003) and its consequences, the path was opened for a more proactive Brazilian
foreign policy.
Lula da Silva and Celso Amorim, accordingly, were responsible for this. The latter
considered its FP to be “active and proud”, in Portuguese “ativa e altiva”. The country should
not only keep pushing towards the reforms of the multilateral forums but also seek new
partners both through strengthening South-South Cooperation and bilateral relations
(CASARÕES, 2012). Amado Cervo (2008) called that move the “Logistic Paradigm”, in which
the State would walk hand-in-hand with new constituencies of foreign and economic policy in
the task of internationally inserting the country’s products.
The ASPA Summits, mentioned above, were a success both economically and
politically. Despite the major focus on these summits being the increase of trade between the
regions, it has also led to cooperation in other areas, as, for instance, the recognition of a
According to Cervo and Bueno (2008, p. 384), “Diante da Escola Superior de Guerra, (...) Gibson
Barbosa, ministro das Relações Exteriores, reconhecia, naquele mesmo ano, que a política exterior
se guiava pelo exclusivo interesse nacional, a serviço do desenvolvimento, e que a isto, no Brasil, se
convencionou chamar de nacionalismo”.
From the original: “os serviços de engenharia brasileira foram convidados a intervir com redobrado
empenho, na prospecção de petróleo, construção de estradas, assistência militar, e penetraram
alguns países como Iraque, Líbia, Arábia Saudita, abrindo o caminho para importantes contratos e
grandes negócios com armamentos” (CERVO; BUENO, 2008, p. 447).

Palestinian state with the 1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital, by president
Lula in 2010, a gesture copied all over South America.
It is important to notice, as Carlos Luján and Camilo Burian (2013) pointed out, that
Brazil is the sole actor in South America that could lead such an enterprise. According to the
authors, “Brazil is inserted in a region, South America, that grants it with a power base that it
could not have on its own (...). In fact, Brazil’s stances on strategic security and defense
issues is both global and regional5” (p. 8). This expresses well Lula’s foreign policy toward
the consolidation of Brazil as an important regional player aiming at the country’s
international aggrandizement. In this sense, Brazil’s position relies on its capabilities to rally
not only its internal constituencies towards the Arab world but also, somehow, and
paradoxically, to carry its neighboring countries towards assuring its position in other regions.
This is precisely an expression of the country’s soft power.
The results are quite positive in general. Trade between Brazil and the Arab countries
has been growing. Products like sugar, frozen meat, iron and other services are leading the
agenda, while smaller industrial products still face the Sino-Indian competition and the
logistics costs. On the other hand, there are some important areas that are seen as assets
for Arab investment. Namely, with the increased concern with food security in the region,
Brazil’s food production is viewed with great interest by Arab states. Furthermore, increasing
tourism has also being discussed during the ASPA Summits.

Graphic 1 – Trade Balance with Arab Countries

Source: LUJÁN; BURIAN, 2013, p. 15.

In the graphic above, Luján and Burian (2013), showd the trade balance between
Brazil and Arab Countries compared to other South American countries, between 2000 to

From the original: “Brasil está inserido en una región, Sudamérica, que lo dota de una base de poder
que por sí solo no podría tener. (...) De hecho, el posicionamiento de Brasil en temas estratégicos de
seguridad y defensa se da tanto a nivel global como regional”.

Brazil noticeably did not always have a surplus (with special attention to 2008, the
year the international crisis erupted) in the years analyzed in the figure, but did have an
important trade increase with Arab countries growing larger, although gradual. In 2010, Brazil
traded more with these countries than all its neighbors in South America. Nonetheless, in
2011, Brazil experienced a trade deficit. In the section below, the constraints for the relation
between both Brazil and Arab Countries will be explored.

2. Dilma’s FP Towards Arab Countries and the setbacks of the “Arab Spring”

Guilherme Stolle Paixao e Casarões (2012) argued that, with Dilma Rousseff,
Brazilian Foreign Policy towards Arab Countries suffered two major inflexions. Firstly,
Antonio Patriota was nominated Minister of Foreign Affairs. He is considered a very talented
diplomat, but with a lower profile than his predecessor. Besides, the presidential diplomacy
would somehow be discouraged by Dilma’s own historic: she didn’t have previous political
experiences. The fact that best represents that is that Dilma Rousseff did not visit any Arab
Country during her first term (CORNETET, 2014). It is important to notice, however, that
Dilma kept key figures beside her: Marco Aurélio Garcia, who was the “Special Adviser to the
President” during Lula two terms, and Celso Amorim was appointed as Defense Minister.
The second inflection was the Arab Spring itself and the paradox Brazil would have to face
between supporting or not its partners, especially Qaddafi’s Libya and Assad’s Syria.
Accordingly, there is no doubt for some analysts that Brazilian foreign policy has been
hapless during Rousseff’s first term in power. However, this section aims at mitigating some
miscomprehensions about this statement in order to reevaluate Rousseff’s first term in power
(2011-2014). Cervo and Lessa (2014) defend that there has been a relative fall in Brazilian
position in many important issues during those years. For them, the lack of “key ideas” (in
Portuguese, “ideias força”) and internal problems, such as the inefficiency of the State in
inserting internationally its nation’s companies, are the main causes of the above mentioned
There is not an explicit (nor implicit) choice towards the dismantling of Lula da Silva’s
gains in terms of foreign policy. For Cervo and Lessa (2014, p. 135), two main domestic
variables that account for the relative fall of Brazil internationally are: “low innovation and low
competitiveness” within its economy and its “political system of partisan coalition”. The frail
results in the economy are more than enough proof for them. Two main concerns, the
deindustrialization and the reprimarization of the economy, are still to be tackled by the
government agents, especially after Rousseff was reelected in the October 2014 elections.
Some critics of Rousseff’s government are more emphatic. According to Ben Tavener
(2014), writing for Al Jazeera America, Brazil tried to show some strength in its foreign policy

in mid-2014. Chancellor Luiz Alberto Figueiredo6, dwelling into the Middle Eastern issues,
“strongly condemned the disproportionate use of force by Israel in the Gaza Strip”. The
accusations made by an Israeli official that Brazil was in fact a “diplomatic dwarf” caused
constraints in the government.
However, Tavener (2014) indicated that “[e]ven in regions where it wields tangible
influence — South America and Africa — Brazil has done very little. [The country] has been
silent on many cases of human right abuses in African countries where Brazil has been
expanding its diplomatic and commercial presence”. This is something that should have been
(and should be) questioned. Even during Lula’s government ties with many African (and
Arab, the main concern in this article) countries were reinforced. Amorim used to summarize
in his declarations that Brazil, as a State, was cooperating with other States, not particularly
governments. It is important to note that, according to what was discussed at the beginning
of this article, the Brazilian FP principle of “non-intervention” is adamant to both Lula and
Rousseff administrations.
If the government was acting according to the tenets of realism in the situation above
discussed, for many analysts, in South America, ideology is decisively an important variable
in Brazil’s foreign policy. One example is the recent crisis in Venezuela. For Javier Cirulizza
(2014), the ideological choices of the “Partido dos Trabalhadores” foreign policy are not
helping the crisis, despite Venezuelan stability being crucial for Brazil. However, there could
be another interpretation to this: by acting in a restrained manner, Brasilia is still advancing
its agenda. Obviously, it does so not in the same pace it did during Rousseff’s predecessor,
but it is still acting.
The Arab World has also gone through formidable changes in the last years, and, in
fact, no leading country can be found in the region nowadays. Egypt, Libya and Syria, that
were once the strongest countries in the region, have all in some way fallen apart (LUJÁN;
BURIAN, 2013). For Luján and Burian (2013, p. 11), Rousseff maintained what Lula had
already started, of course, but with some reservations. In one hand, she kept pushing for the
reform of the international system towards multilateralism (especially through the United
Nations). On the other hand, Brazil has retained its focus towards dealing with specific
regions. Thus, Dilma Rousseff continued valuing the ASPA Summits.
She participated in the Third Summit in Lima, Peru, where she defended the principle
of “responsibility while protecting” and ranted against islamophobia (ROUSSEFF, 2012). She
expressed how the ASPA Summits not only brought the two regions together in political and
social terms, but also how it happened to involve good opportunities for business and
opening markets of both regions to trade.

He replaced Patriota ahead of the Foreign Affairs Ministry in 2013.

However, there was a backward trend after Dilma Rousseff’s first term. In 2011,
during her first year in government, trade between Brazil and Arab Countries felt the
backdrop of the 2008 crisis and Brasília had to deal with a commercial deficit of US$ 2,5
billions, the largest in the last eleven years, as already mentioned above (LUJÁN; BURIAN,
What Lula and Rousseff have in common, together with their counterparts in other
Latin American countries, is a rhetoric that emphasizes anti-colonialism, anti-imperialism and
nationalism (expressed better by left-wing parties). These ideals somehow, according to
Galindo, Baez and Brun (2014) are, the main factors why even the diasporas in that region
kept supporting Bashar al-Assad regime.
Those elements are indeed relevant to explain Brazil’s foreign policy towards Arab
Countries during Rousseff’s first term. Italian historian Loris Zanatta (2014) clearly expressed
that Latin American nationalism was crafted from an opposition towards the United States.
The recurrence of interventions in the region gave rise to anti-American feelings, even
though the diplomacies were pragmatic enough to understand the USA importance to the
region. This, of course, did not alienated Brasilia from Washington. The choice has mostly
been pragmatic.
Therefore Rousseff and former president Lula’s Party have keenly advocated against
foreign intervention abroad, especially those lead by the United States. It is not as simple as
it may appears, because Lula and Bush were, for instance, partners in many important
issues. However, we must acknowledge ideas have power. Of course, no fantastic,
revolutionary or hasty move was conducted between 2011 to 2014. This situation was also
valid for some specific situations in the Middle East, as will be discussed in the following

3. Libya, Syria, the “Islamic State” and the Arab quagmire

As Maria Regina Soares Lima (2000) stressed, power is concentrated in the

executive in the South Cone countries. This, however, was a trend that, as she pointed out at
the beginning of the XXI century, was about to fade, because globalization demanded new
ways to deal with the dilution of the in-out frontier. This perception is accurate. In Brazil,
Itamaraty is not the sole responsible for international relations (in its broad sense) anymore.
Neither is the Legislative mute to international changes. Both the Senate and the House of
Deputies have commissions for external relations, a trend that Hill (2003) already pointed out
as a sign of a mature democracy. These commissions are not, needless to say, absent from
the political game, corruption and lobbying. Nevertheless, they function as a way to bring to
the floor of the Congress specific themes of foreign policy.

It is also important to affirm that, according to Lima (2000), the ontological model of
realism is long gone when it comes to analyzing foreign policy, which is in accordance with
what is central in this article. Besides, public opinion must be taken into consideration.
According to George Kennan (apud LIMA, 2002, p. 273), public opinion was defective
because it was both concerned with immediate gains and it was drained with emotions. That
view should be questioned as national interest is no longer seen as unisonous, as public
opinion is not irrelevant to foreign policy making anymore, since the enlargement of the
democratic processes has awaken various interests groups.
The belief that there was a clash between foreign policy and internal policy began
fading in the 1950s. Many models where developed in what was called the “Foreign Policy
Analysis”, a field that lies between the political science and the international relations studies,
bridging what was considered unnatural boundaries between the external and internal issues
of politics (ALARCON, 2012). For Lima (2002, p. 277), “the incompatibility between external
politics/democracy faded away, unless a technocratic view of politics tout court is adopted,
based on the rationality of technical decisions7”.
It has already been stated here that Arab Countries became important to Brazil
especially after the first ASPA Summit. Economic and political opportunities appeared and
had to be seized. Yet, as Casarões (2012) pointed out, the records of both Muammar
Qaddafi and Bashar Al-Assad regime were not somehow good enough to boost Brasilia’s
soft power. They were both what he called “lasting autocracies” and the Brazilian and
international media explicitly blasted the country for that erratic move.
Right-wing Brazilian magazine Veja has been constantly blaming Lula (and Dilma) for
its moves towards the Middle East. This magazine is particularly cited because it is a direct
opposition to the government. As Hill (2003, p. 274) pointed out, “the power of the media is
exerted in two distinct ways: over public opinion and then over decision-makers, including
indirectly via political class”. In this sense, what Veja publishes clearly shows that in
democracies there is, firstly, a multitude of voices that have enough room to express
themselves. And, secondly, foreign policy making in such situations gets harder, because,
even though the public opinion is not always aware of international relations issues, the
media can help shape opinions and create uneasiness.
Contrary to what critics defend and in favor of his foreign policy, former president
Lula, when participating at the 2009 Presidential Summit of the African Union, in Libya,
reinforced principles of international relations that have long been important for Brazil, from
Getulio Vargas to the militaries, and in accordance to the constitution, as discussed above
(NETTO, 2009), declared that what he was doing was state policy. The belief that democracy

From the original: “A incompatibilidade política externa/democracia desaparece, a menos que se adote uma
visão tecnocrática da política tout court, com base na alegada racionalidade das decisões técnicas”.

is a process, so non-interference would apply, and besides, the ideal of reshaping the world
order, as have been studied here, is strong enough in Brazil’s foreign policy not to be
Casarões (2012) himself reinforced that “regardless of the political connotations of
relations between Brazil and Libya, the visible expansion of bilateral foreign trade should be
noticed”8. In the Syrian case, Brazil also had economic interests (refer to the Table 1 below),
notwithstanding the political constraints of dealing with Bashar Al-Assad.

Table 1 – Trade between Brazil and Libya and Syria

Country 1989-2002 2003-2010
Exports US$ 56 million US$ 232 million
Libya Imports US$ 8,7 million US$ 468 million
Exports US$ 49 million US$ 240 million
Syria Imports US$ 4 million US$ 26 million
Source: Data collected from CASARÕES (2012).

The case of Libya is sensitive in the analysis here presented. It was also shaken by
the “Arab Spring” and Qaddafi quickly lost control over the country. The crisis was too close
to Europe to be ignored, as defended Michel Foucher (2013). Something had to be done.
Brazil was presiding the Security Council of the United Nations when, on February 26, 2011,
resolution 1970 was approved, which predicted sanctions against Qaddafi regime. However,
the country abstained – together with Germany, China, India and Russia – on Resolution
1973, which predicted that all necessary means should be used to prevent abuses from
Qaddafi’s regime.
The reason for intervening in the Libyan crisis was grounded on the principle of
“responsibility to protect” (R2P), crafted in 2001 and accepted (with restraints) by the
international community in 2005. Nonetheless, the sponsors of the resolution managed to
open for the possibility of “acting nationally or through regional organisations or
arrangements (…) to take all necessary measures (…) to protect civilians populated areas
under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya” (UN/RES/1973 apud LEME, 2015, p.
95). Right after the approval of the resolution, France and its partners managed to start
bombing targets in Libya. As Brazilian ambassador João Marcos Senise Paes Leme (2015,
p. 99) stated:

Ironically, the action, strongly driven and carried out by European countries,
was taken against a country the European Union had, after Qaddafi

From the original: “independentemente das conotações políticas das relações entre Brasil e Líbia,
deve-se ressaltar a visível ampliação de seu comércio exterior”.

rehabilitation in 2003, granted arms export licenses of 834.5 million euros,
between October 2004 and the end of 2009 .

Brazil’s position in these circumstances was in agreement with its worries over the
functioning, as well as, in this case, the malfunctioning, of multilateral arrangements. It was
discussed above that the country’s foreign policy stresses the need for diplomacy,
negotiation, and for consensus whenever possible. This does not mean that Brazil was in
favor of the Libyan regime’s attitudes. Brasilia actually had an acute awareness that a
military solution, that excludes some in the dialogues, were not going to bring peace to Libya.
That seemed accurate. The complete destabilization of the county has as a current blowback
thousands of migrants crossing the Mediterranean towards Europe.
For that reason, Antonio de Aguiar Patriota, then Foreign Relations Minister in Brazil,
articulated the principle of “Responsibility while Protecting” (RwP) (PATRIOTA, 2011). It is
important to note that the divulgation of this was on a Brazilian newspaper – Folha de S.
Paulo – and only then Dilma Rousseff would reassure it at the General Assembly meeting, in
New York (September 21st, 2011). According to her, the RwP should walk hand-in-hands
with R2P. Besides, it is linked to the reform of the Security Council itself (ROUSSEFF, 2011).
Nevertheless, among all the paradoxes of the Brazilian Foreign Policy has had to face
because of the sensitive situation in the Arab Countries, one precise situation called national
and international attention. Right after her opening speech at the 69th General Assembly of
the United Nations, president Rousseff conceded an interview to a group of journalist in
which she defended long-term positions of the Brazilian foreign policy, such as the reform of
the United Nations. However, what stood out was her answer to a question concerning the
so-called “Islamic State”. The interviewer asked if she agreed with negotiating with the group
and if she sought it as a feasible way to solve the crisis. Her answer is as follows:

(…) do you believe that bombing ISIS will solve the problem? Because if it
did, I think it would have been solved in Iraq. And what we have seen in Iraq
is paralysis. Those are not my words, you can read them in the New York
Times (…). What did they say? That there was stagnation. Why? The ISIS
has the support of Sunni communities. So the roots of the problem must be
comprehended. (…) The demons are free, all of them. Let's not forget what
happened in Iraq: the Iraqi state was dissolved (…). So today, we simply
want to bomb ISIS, and to say it will solve it because the dialogue won’t. I
think bombing won’t do [solve the crisis] by itself, because bombing won’t
lead to peaceful consequences. Why do you want to bomb? Why? Why
would someone internally want you to bomb? (…) To ensure peace?
(ROUSSEFF, 2014; translated with adaptations).

From the original: “Ironicamente, a ação, fortemente impulsionada e levada a cabo por países
europeus, dava-se contra um país ao qual a União Europeia, após relativa reabilitação de Kadafi em
2003, concedera licenças de exportação de armamentos da ordem de 834,5 milhões de euro, entre
outubro de 2004 e o fim de 2009” (LEME, 2015, p. 99).
From the original: “Gente, vocês acreditam que bombardear o ISIS resolve o problema? Porque se
resolvesse, eu acho que estaria resolvido no Iraque. E o que se tem visto no Iraque é a paralisia. Isso

In Brazil, the media blasted her for defending “dialogue with terrorists”. Ricardo Setti
(2014), a columnist at Veja, attacked the president and said her speech was a shame to all
Brazilians. As the fact happened during the electoral campaign, even the main oppositionist
party, PSDB, in the figure of its candidate, Aécio Neves, attacked the president declaring that
her position was “numb” and that she should never have defend dialogue with a group that
decapitates people. What she did, according to him, was actually against what the Brazilian
Foreign Policy preached (FASANO, 2014). The fuss reached such a proportion that even
Luis Alberto Figueiredo, the Chancellor at the time, had to defend the president’s statement,
clarifying that Dilma had actually defended negotiation with the international community in
order to solve the Islamic State issue (MOURA, 2014).
According to Christopher Hill (2003), the decision-making process in a democracy
has to bear in mind a great amount of constituencies, from the media, that has a huge
influence in the public opinion, to the sponsors of elections and all other kinds of activities.
Another element worth noting, specifically in the case that is analyzed in this article, is the
role played by the Diasporas. According to Galindo, Baeza and Brun (2014), Brazil’s (and
other relevant States in Latin American) strong position against intervention and for a political
solution of the Syrian conflict is somehow linked to Diasporas’ organizations11.
This case particularly demonstrates that Foreign Policy cannot be conducted
undercover in democracies. Constituencies have become aware of how their everyday lives
are affected by international arenas. Besides, oppositionist parties, the media, and specific
economic groups are also mindful of the power they have to shape public opinion.
In a recent move to get Brasília’s attention, the Iraqi Prime Minister, Mr. Ibrahim al-
Jafaari, visited the country in June 2015, pledging cooperation to fight the Islamic State as it
is a threat to the region and to the whole world. The new Brazilian Foreign Minister, Mr.
Mauro Vieira, replied that Brazil was sympathetic to the Iraqi people’s cause and that there
would be further cooperation (FOREQUE, 2015). Now, what we should be following are the
actions that the country will take during Dilma Rousseff’s second term.

não sou eu que estou dizendo, é só vocês lerem o New York Times de ontem. O que o New York
Times disse: que houve uma estagnação. Por quê? O ISIS tem apoio de comunidades sunitas. Então,
o que se tem de olhar é, de fato, a raiz desse problema. Vocês sabem aquele negócio, quando você
destampa a caixa e sai todos os demônios? Os demônios estão soltos, todos. Não vamos esquecer o
que ocorreu no Iraque: houve uma dissolução do Estado iraquiano, uma dissolução. Então, hoje, a
gente querer simplesmente bombardear o ISIS, dizer que você resolve porque o diálogo não dá. Eu
acho que não dá, também, só o bombardeio, porque o bombardeio não leva a consequências de paz.
Por que você quer bombardear? Por quê? Por que alguém internamente quer que você bombardeie?
Você vai bombardear para quê? Para garantir a paz?”.
Brazilian Vice-president is of Lebanese descent. This article, in Executive Magazine’s, an important
Lebanese economic and business magazine, argues that he’s “the most powerful Lebanese person
alive” (DYKE, 2014): <

4. Final Remarks

Against the realist dogma of International Relations studies, Lima (2002, p. 277)
argued that in democracies there are mechanisms that actually mitigate the rulers’
opportunism: one of them is the existence of a professionalized and large foreign policy
bureaucracy; the second is that the leader can (and ought to sometimes) delegate the
authority to decide. Being so, the problem is not if foreign policy is better operationalized in
democracies. The fact is that these countries, Brazil included, must deal with the tensions
aroused from the many constituencies involved with foreign policy.
Dilma Rousseff has been dealing with the tensions related to the Arab Spring
regarding and respecting the country’s international relations principles established in the
1988 constitution. Even though there was a fuss over her statement in 2014, the principle of
“responsibility while protecting” caused enough discomfort in some countries that led the
coalition to intervene in Libya. Besides, as ambassador Leme (2015, p. 111) stressed out,
the instability in Iraq, Libya and Syria because of foreign intervention seems to corroborate
Brazilian stance against this kind of action.
Rousseff’s statement was made during election campaigns. It is important to state
that even though “it is difficult to see how elections do give citizens a role in foreign policy”
(HILL, 2003, p. 258), when international events start being part of everyday life and the
media uses it either to boost or downplay the government, that variable must start to be
The 2008 crisis – which PT used for a long a time as a trump because of the fact
Brazil wasn’t being affected by it –, migration flows to Brazil (from Haitians to Bengalis), drug
problems, border security, the revelation that even the president was being spied by the
United States and the manipulation of political opponents have made Brazilians more aware
of international issues. The external has become internal. Thus, in democracies, and in a
globalized world, it is wise to deal with them together. Missing the line would be catastrophic
in times of crisis, especially because Brazil is an important international actor. The
consequences of retreat right now would not be wise.


ALARCON, Danillo. Os meandros da política externa dos Estados Unidos para o

Afeganistão: o 11 de setembro e a Operação Liberdade Duradoura. Brasília, 2012. 141f.
Dissertação (Mestrado em Relações Internacionais) – Instituto de Relações Internacionais,
UnB, 2012.

BRASIL [Constituição (1988)]. Constitution of the Federative Republic of Brazil:

constitutional text of October 5, 1988, with the alterations introduced by Constitutional

Amendments no. 1/1992 through 64/2010 and by Revision Constitutional Amendments no.
1/1994 through 6/1994. – 3. ed. – Brasília: Chamber of Deputies, Documentation and
Information Center, 2010.

BRUN, Élodie. La diplomacia brasileña hacia el Medio Oriente: una estrategia oscilante.
Revista Iberoamericana de Filosofia, Política y Humanidades, año 14, n. 28. 2012.

CASARÕES, Guilherme Stolle Paixão e. Construindo Pontes? O Brasil diante da Primavera

Árabe. Ciência e Cultura, vol.64, no.4, São Paulo, Oct./Dec. 2012.

CERVO, Amado Luiz. Inserção Internacional – formação dos conceitos brasileiros. São
Paulo: Saraiva, 2008.

________; BUENO, Clodoaldo. História da política exterior do Brasil. Brasília: Editora da

Universidade de Brasília, 2008.

________; LESSA, Antonio Carlos. O declínio: inserção internacional do Brasil (2011-2014).

Revista Brasileira de Política Internacional, 57 (2), p. 133-151, 2014.

CIURLIZZA, Javier. Brazil’s Foreign Policy and Latin America: a new chapter? International
Crisis Group – In Pursuit of Peace. December, 2014. Available at<

CORNETET, João Marcelo Conte. A Política Externa de Dilma Rousseff: contenção na

continuidade. Revista Conjuntura Austral, vol. 5, n. 24, jun-jul 2014.

DYKE, Joe. The Most Powerful Lebanese person alive. Executive Magazine On-line, July
2, 2014. Available at: <
temer-the-most-powerful-lebanese-person>. Accessed in June/2015.

FASANO, Bruna. Aécio: Dilma propõe negociar com um grupo que decapita pessoas. Veja –
Brasil/Governo, 25 de setembro de 2014. Available at:
pessoas/>. Accessed in: February 2015.

FOREQUE, Flávia. Chanceler do Iraque pede apoio do Brasil contra Estado Islâmico. Folha
de São Paulo On-line – Mundo, 02 de junho de 2015. Available at:
brasil-contra-estado-islamico.shtml?cmpid=facefolha>. Accessed in June/2015.

FOUCHER, Michel. General comments on external intervention in countries in crisis. In:

DANE, Felix (ed.). Brazil Emerging in the Global Security Order. International Security: a
European – South American Dialogue. Rio de Janeiro: Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, 2013.

GALINDO, Alejandra; BAEZA, Cecilia; BRUN, Élodie. Diversity behind unity: Latin America’s
response to the Arab Spring. IN: MASON, Robert. The International Politics of the Arab
Spring – Popular unrest and foreign policy. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.

HILL, Christopher. The Changing Politics of Foreign Policy. New York: Palgrave
Macmillan, 2003.

LEME, João Marcos Senise Paes. A Intervenção na Líbia, a ‘Responsabilidade de Proteger’
e a ‘Responsabilidade ao Proteger’. Cadernos de Política Exterior – Instituto de Pesquisa
de Relações Internacionais, Brasília, FUNAG, v.1, n.1, 2015, p. 91-113.

LIMA, Maria Regina Soares de. Instituições Democráticas e Política Exterior. Contexto
Internacional, Rio de Janeiro, vol. 22, n. 2, julho/dezembro 2002, p. 265-303.

LINZ, Juan J.; STEPAN, Alfred C. A transição e consolidação da democracia: a

experiência do sul da Europa e da América do Sul. São Paulo: Paz e Terra, 1999.

LISTER, Charles. Profiling the Islamic State. Brookings Doha Center Analysis Paper,
Doha, number 13, November 2014.

LUJÁN, Carlos A.; BURIAN, Camilo M. López. Las relaciones de Sudamérica com el mundo
árabe em los inicios del siglo XXI – Hacia un diálogo birregional más fecundo. Revista
Política Internacional, Academia Diplomática del Perú, Lima, 2013.

MOURA, Rafael Moraes. Dilma quer diálogo com comunidade internacional, não com
terroristas, diz ministro. O Estado de S. Paulo, 25 de setembro de 2014. Available at:
internacional-nao-com-terroristas-diz-ministro,1566164>. Accessed in: June 2015.

NETTO, Andrei. Lula ataca mídia e chama Kadafi de “amigo e irmão”. O Estado de São
Paulo, 06/02/2009. Available at: <,lula-ataca-
midia-e-chama-kadafi-de-amigo-e-irmao,396489>. Accessed in: 06/01/2015.

ROUSSEF, Dilma. Entrevista coletiva concedida após cerimônia de abertura do Debate

de Alto Nível da 69ª Assembleia Geral das Nações Unidas (ONU). Nova Iorque: ONU, 24
set. 2014. (23min02s) [ENTREVISTA]. Disponível em: <
23min02s>. Acessado em: 16 jun. 2015.

________. Discurso da Presidenta da República, Dilma Rousseff, por ocasião da III

Cúpula ASPA Lima: III Cúpula da ASPA, 2 out. 2012.

________. Discurso da Presidenta da República, Dilma Rousseff, na abertura do

Debate Geral da 66ª Assembleia Geral das Nações Unidas. Nova Iorque: ONU, 21 set.

SETTI, Ricardo. A postura de Dilma diante do terror bárbaro do chamado “Estado Islâmico”
é uma vergonha para os brasileiros de bem. Veja – Coluna do Ricardo Setti, 25/09/2014.
Available at: <
bem/>. Accessed in: 01/06/2015.

TAVENER, Ben. Though not a “diplomatic dwarf”, Brazil lacks clout. Al Jazeera America,
July 29, 2014. Available at: <>. Acces: 05/02/2015.

ZANATTA, Loris. Historia de América Latina – De la Colonia al siglo XXI. Buenos Aires:
Siglo Veintiuno Editores Argentina, 2014.