Americanism, anti-communism, anti-abortionism: fundamentals of Brazilian electoral foreign policy

FUNAG's activities show that it is more concerned with fighting an alleged communist threat than with promoting Brazil's international interests.

Marilia Heloisa Fraga Arantes
Marilia Arantes
3 September 2020, 5.28pm
Protest against the communist threat in Brazil
Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain

A vital component of any country’s foreign policy is the promotion of international affairs at the domestic level, specifically by valuing cooperation and participation in multilateral and bilateral spaces. But the actions of the Brazilian Alexandre Gusmão Foundation (FUNAG) suggest that the body currently considers the promotion of such cosmopolitan values outdated. What one can assume by its unfolding is that FUNAG is currently concerned with defending Brazilian society against a supposed international communist threat.

FUNAG is a foundation linked to the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which seeks to increase citizens' awareness of foreign policy. Since the election of President Jair Bolsonaro, it has become clear that both bodies are expected to be blindly aligned with the far-right ideology of his foreign policy, such as the fight against the so-called ‘globalism’. But what has been expressed by FUNAG's actions goes beyond that..

In view of Brazil's declining credibility in the international arena, FUNAG seems to have embraced a new mission. It no longer shares information with citizens about the country's international projection, or encourages popular engagement in international issues. On the contrary, the content it promotes presents striking characteristics of Bolsonarista populism: the use of lavish speeches to reach its audience in a seemingly constant electoral campaign. After decades of self-determined pragmatic foreign policy, Brazil lags into a pro-Americanist and electoral foreign policy.

Moreover, one of the central pieces of the 'constant electoral campaign' is to promote the continuous distinction between the 'I' and the 'other', dividing society between allies and enemies. A good Bolsonarista tool, this is also the speech promoted by FUNAG.

FUNAG seems now specialized in combating communism and defending an agenda of conservative moral values

Amid growing hostilities against China spouted by Brazilian authorities, including high-profile ministers, FUNAG embraces Bolsonaro’s blind Americanism. On August 11th, it promoted an online conference titled ‘The Rescue of the Brazil-US relations and its benefits’, whose speaker was none other than Jair Bolsonaro’s son, Eduardo Bolsonaro, who discussed the ‘ideological mess of the Workers’ Party government’ and the ‘issue of the Cuban doctors’.

This pro-US stance, however, is the least radical Bolsonarista feature diligently addressed by FUNAG. The Foundation seems now specialized in combating communism and defending an agenda of conservative moral values. Such topics are among the most popular among Bolsonaro's supporters, who mistakenly associate communism with the previous governments led by the Workers' Party (PT). In August FUNAG also held an event titled ‘How to destroy a country: a socialist adventure in Venezuela’. Exactly one month earlier, the Foundation promoted the conference ‘Globalism and Communism’.

Globalism, it is worth remembering, is the term used by Bolsonaro and other leaders, like Donald Trump, to condemn the current configuration of international politics and the international liberal order, including the United Nations system. Wrongly, Brazilian Chancellor Ernesto Araújo frequently links globalism to Cultural Marxism.

The anti-communist agenda of FUNAG is too broad to be thoroughly unveiled here. But the overall idea becomes quite clear from the titles of its events: ‘Castro-Chavism: organized crime in the Americas’; ‘One century of rubble: imagining the future with moral values of the right’; and 'Memory of communism and the current virus of lies’. All these online events were promoted by FUNAG between July and August.

FUNAG's current actions are testament to the country's declining credibility in the international sphere

To complete the Bolsonarista equation, on 4th August FUNAG also held an event aligned with conservative-Christian values. It was an anti-abortion lecture titled 'The importance of promoting international politics in defense of life’, hosted by the conservative congresswoman Chris Tonietto. Like Eduardo Bolsonaro, Tonietto is a member of the Liberal Social Party (PSL), the former party of President Bolsonaro.

The foreign policy content promoted by FUNAG is far removed from the international relations practices described by the Brazilian Constitution. These include the promotion of cooperation for human progress, advocacy of human rights and the continuous defense of Latin American integration. Instead, FUNAG is currently engaged in pleasing Bolsonaro's base by repeating the same far-right jargon of his presidential campaign.

FUNAG has no decision-making role in Brazilian foreign policy, but its current actions are testament to the country's declining credibility in the international sphere. In light of the decline of its international status, Brazilian foreign policy turned to domestic audiences in search of credibility – this is the Brazilian electoral foreign policy.

FUNAG's actions may also contribute to depreciate the international projection built by Brazil in previous governments. Public opinion is a necessary component of foreign policymaking. In democracies, the need for government accountability fosters actions in line with the opinion of the majority. When an agency like FUNAG shapes domestic perspectives towards radical anti-communism, it sets in motion a process of popular engagement in the defense of such values. And the promotion of vital topics, such as international cooperation and regional integration, is left behind.

To the detriment of the past's 'proud and active' foreign policy, FUNAG does not seem interested in discussing the future of MERCOSUR or regional integration efforts to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 in Latin America. But its audience can at least rest assured that they are safe from the communist threat.

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