Lately I've been emailing a number of correspondents in the region, trying to get them to pay more attention to Brazil. We'll see what comes of that effort, but for now, I wanted to share a slightly moderated version of the email I've been sending most of them on how and why there is a fundamental shift going on in South America:
...There's a large story that could use more coverage down here that has everything to do with how Brazil is slowly but surely consolidating its role as South America's leader, despite Chavez's staying power or Washington's relationship with Bogota.
Take, for example, the fact that Uribe met with Lula on 17 February to discuss bilateral relations, trade, etc. On the agenda is also a discussion about border protection and Brazil's role as a mediator/facilitator in Colombia's ongoing dealings with the FARC. The helicopters used to rescue the recently released hostages were furnished by Brazil.
Brazil's Petrobras is a major supporter of Colombia's small yet robust biofuel program. And PDVSA looks to Petrobras to help with refinery needs - not to mention Brazil's potential to eclipse Venezuela as a serious, professional oil exporter in the next 20 years.
UNASUR was Brazil's idea, and when Ameripol meets, Brazil is one of the loudest voices, I'm told.
Obama called Lula very early in his administration, and he will travel to the US in March. When Obama comes down here, I think he will promote - privately - the idea of Brazil as a regional policing force. Brazil will resist initially, but if Obama takes that position, it will give Brazil at least tacit approval of its new role in the region.
Along those lines, Brazil will be replaced by Colombia as Washington's number one partner in the region, especially when Amorim (Brazil's leftist Foreign Minister who does NOT like Tom Shannon) is out of office in 2011.
There's more: Brazil is currently developing five separate infrastructure projects (w/o Chinese help) to link its interior with the Pacific, through Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. In the mid- to long-term, Brazil will increasingly be interested in protecting these assets from criminal groups inside these Andean countries that seek to use them for black market purposes. These projects link a portion of Brazil's economy with security issues inside her neighbors.
Also, when Brazil's recently discovered natural gas deposits come online (late 2009, early 2010), the country will depend less on Bolivia, and will be in a position to actually export natural gas. This makes Brazil an attractive partner for Chile, currently struggling under its less than ideal natural gas partnership with Argentina.
In short, there are many factors, some mentioned above, that point toward Brazil's future as the leader in the region. We're both aware that some media sources have covered the story of the "Giant that awoke," but the stories I've seen only scratch the surface...
This is a source for analysis, interviews, and commentary on security in Latin America. Herein you will find rumors, the results of off the record interviews, and information you'll not find in international or United States news media.