Countries:
none
Candidates:
Barack Obama, John McCain
Issues:
Economy & Trade, Energy, Environment, International Relations, Globalization
 

This is the first US presidential elections in which Brazilians clearly see issues close to their hearts at stake. Both Barack Obama and John McCain have at some point touched on biofuels, international trade, Latin American integration and the place of Brazil in the world. They have listened the Democrat's and the Republican's proposals, and if they could vote next week, Brazilians would probably help to elect Obama. Of the 17,374 votes made by Brazilians on the ‘If the world could vote‘ website, at the time of publication, 86.2% have been cast for the Democrat candidate. But which of them would have the best policies when it comes to Brazil? Otherwise, when it comes to defending America's interest, who would be less bad for Brazil?

Pedro Dória [pt] tries to answer these questions. He mentions that McCain is the candidate that most mentions both Brazil and Latin America, and that he is the candidate who has opposed the 54-cent-a-gallon tariff on imports of ethanol made from sugar cane, mostly from Brazil. However, Dória believes that should McCain be elected, he would not be able to live up to his promises, considering that he would not have support from many legislative chambers, whose majority is Democrat controlled. Considering this, the blogger concludes that Obama would be a more interesting candidate for Brazil:

Que tipo de política energética interessa ao Brasil? Não somos uma república de bananas que vive de uma indústria só e nossos interesses, nessa história, não são apenas comerciais. O Brasil sai ganhando mais com uma política que favoreça o nascimento de uma indústria mundial e de larga escala de combustíveis alternativos. Se os EUA investirem pesado neste tipo de indústria, haverá um mercado maior em todo o mundo. E o Brasil já tem tecnologias prontas na mão para vender. O fomento de uma grande indústria de combustíveis não-fósseis é o ponto chave do governo Obama. Este será seu principal compromisso quando, logo após jurar fidelidade à Constituição, fizer seu discurso inaugural. Se ele for capaz desta mudança, é uma revolução no mundo.

What kind of energy policy would matter for Brazil? We are not a banana republic that survives on a single industry and our interests here are not just trade issues. Brazil will get more from a policy favoring the birth of a global, and large, alternative fuel industry. If the U.S. invests heavily in this type industry then there will be a bigger world market. And Brazil has already technology in hand, ready to sell. The promotion of a major non-fossil fuel industry is the key point of Obama's agenda. This will be his primary commitment when, soon after swearing allegiance to the Constitution, he makes his inaugural address. If he is capable of changing this, it will be a world revolution.

Ana Paula Freitas [pt], on the other hand, strongly disagrees that Obama would bring any positive outcome to Brazil, specifically, considering that his policy on Latin America proposes an expansion of “the partnership with Brazil to share technology, develop markets for biofuels, and create greener methods of energy consumption. Other important measures that the Obama administration must deal with include the preservation of the Amazon rainforest and the fight against deforestation through economic incentives”. She believes in this sense, Brazil would benefit more from a McCain government:

Deu para entender a idéia? Barack Obama não quer etanol brasileiro. Ele acredita que estimular a produção de etanol pode estimular a plantação de cana na Amazônia, desmatando florestas que ele considera ‘recurso global’ no combate ao aquecimento. ‘Recurso Global’ é estranho, um pouco megalomaníaco. Então, se Obama for eleito, esqueçam as promessas de que o Brasil é o paraíso futuro do etanol. Ele quer dar incentivos à produção americana desse combustível e torná-los auto-suficientes. A moral: Obama é fofo, alegre, sorridente, tem carisma e uma série de outras coisas que fazem ser quase irresístivel não votar nele (no nosso caso, torcer por ele). Parece ser o tipo de cara que vai fazer as coisas mudarem. E ele vai, mas não para nós.

Did you get it? Barack Obama does not want Brazilian ethanol. He believes that stimulating the production of ethanol may increase the sugarcane plantation in the Amazon, deforesting areas that he believes to be ‘global resources' to combat global warming. ‘Global resources' is strange, a little megalomaniac. So if Obama is elected, you should forget the promise that Brazil is the future ethanol paradise. He wants to encourage American to become self-sufficient in its production of the fuel . The moral: Obama is cute, happy, smiling, has charisma and a lot of other things which makes voting for him almost irresistible (in our case, supporting him). He sounds like the kind of guy who will bring change. And he will, but not for us.

Some people do hope Obama wins, just because a McCain victory would not bring anything new for the US or for the rest of the world, but are still scared of the prospect of him as the US president. Daniel Duende is one of them. In a way agreeing with the blogger above, he believes Obama will be such a great US president that this alone is a reason to fear him:

Mas é justamente nestes destes pontos, na genialidade e no poder carismático de Obama, e no país que o elegerá e o qual ele irá governar, que reside o meu medo. Como eu disse, Barack Obama será um presidente muito bom, muito bom mesmo, para seu país. Mas não podemos esquecer que país é este, e como ele enriqueceu. Se não é o mesmo país que explorou a pobreza e doutrinou o mundo com seu discurso de consumo e globalização; o mesmo país que interveio nas questões políticas e sociais de metade do mundo, sempre em proveito próprio, e que depois de dizimar os próprios índios, destruir as próprias florestas, massacrar a própria sociedade debaixo de sua mass-mídia brutal e inescapável, decidiu que seria o árbitro do mundo nestes e em outros assuntos. Barack Obama será o presidente, um dos melhores de todos, deste país. E na mesma medida que sua competência será enorme, o poder dos Estados Unidos da América de ajudar ou destruir o mundo será igualmente maior.

But it is precisely these points, Obama's ingenuity and charismatic power, and in the country which will elect him and which he will govern, that my fear lies. Like I said, Barack Obama will be a very good president, very good for his country. But we must not forget what his country is, and how it got rich. If it is not the same country that exploited poverty and indoctrinated the world with its talk of consumption and globalization, the same country that intervened in half of the world's political and social issues, always to their advantage, and that after decimating their own indigenous peoples, destroying their own forests, massacring their own society through their brutal and inescapable mass-media, they decided that they would be the world referees in these and other issues. Barack Obama will be the president, one of the best of all time, of this country. And to the same extent that his competency will be great, equally bigger will be the United States' power to help or destroy the world.

Acantus79 blog publishes an article by journalist and Director of Brazil Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, in Washington, Paulo Sotero, who balances the two candidates against one another and concludes that:

Seja quem for o sucessor de Bush, não será fácil restabelecer o consenso sobre política de comércio exterior em Washington e abrir o caminho para a conclusão da Rodada Doha - o objetivo mais urgente da diplomacia brasileira. Não se deve subestimar, tampouco, a possibilidade de um governo McCain desencadear ações no Oriente Médio ou em relação a Cuba que acirrariam a instabilidade internacional, contrariando os interesses do Brasil. Em contraste, a promessa de renovação do papel dos EUA no cenário internacional representada por Obama poderia ser mais interessante para o Brasil. É verdade que na questão mais premente do comércio ele condicionou a retomada da pauta a uma negociação de políticas domésticas capazes de responder aos problemas que alimentam a sensação de insegurança econômica dos americanos. Entre estas estão considerações sobre o impacto ambiental e social do comércio. A lógica sugere que um presidente democrata teria maiores chances de negociar tais acordos com um Congresso controlado por seu partido e reativar a agenda de comércio exterior - um componente essencial de um reengajamento construtivo dos EUA com o mundo. Nesse cenário, a questão é como responderá o País governado pelo Partido dos Trabalhadores, que proclama a superioridade ecológica do etanol de cana e afirma ser de seu interesse nacional preservar a Amazônia.

Whoever the successor of Bush is, it will not be easy to restore the consensus on foreign trade policy in Washington and pave the way for a conclusion to the Doha Round  - the most urgent goal of Brazilian diplomacy. We should not underestimate the possibility of fierce international instability triggered by a McCain government's action in the Middle East or in relation to Cuba, which would be contrary to Brazil's interests. In contrast, the promise of renewal of the U.S. role in the international arena represented by Obama might be more interesting to Brazil. It is true that when it comes to the most pressing issue of trade, he has conditioned the resumption of a re-engagement with a negotiation of domestic policies which would be able to respond to problems that feed the economic insecurity of Americans. Among these, there are considerations about the environmental and social impact of trade. This logic suggests that a Democrat president would have more chance to negotiate such agreements with a Congress controlled by the same party and reactivate to the agenda of foreign trade - an essential component of a constructive re-engagement between the U.S. and the world. In this scenario, the question is how Brazil, the country ruled by the Labour Party, which proclaims the superiority of ecological ethanol from sugar cane and claims it to be in its national interest to preserve the Amazon, will respond.

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  • 3 comments

    1. Fred Says:

      Oi Paula
      Nice Blog … I work for Tecelagem LADY Ltda, http://www.ladytex.com.br , here in North America.

      Nice to here Brasilian thoughts on the USA elections … Hope McCain wins for all of us !

      Tenha um dia belo !

    2. Sarah Malachowsky Says:

      I wanted to write and thank you for all of your interesting posts. I spent a semester studying abroad in Brazil this spring and found it fascinating to talk to my Brazilian friends about the contentious primary race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Now that I am home, it is nice to read your posts and stay in touch with the Brazilian perspective as the election nears. It is interesting that you open your post by saying that this is the first US election where Brazilians clearly see issues close to their heart at stake. Do you think this is due to an increasing interconnectedness arising from globalization, or perhaps the severity of problems we are facing in present-day? I indeed often heard my peers in Salvador say that the rest of the world should be able to vote for the American president because what he does so affects other nations, which I always found interesting.

      One thing that interests me is to compare is youth participation in the US and Brazil. In the United States, my generation has the lowest turn-out rates of any age group. In Brazil this problem seems to be solved by the compulsory voting system, but while there I found that many expressed resentment at being forced to vote. While compulsory voting should, in theory, increase minority participation in Brazilian politics, it seemed as though the system remains very elitist and white, not very different from politics in the US. From an outsider’s perspective looking in to the American system, how do you think we could get more young people involved? Would a compulsory voting system help the issue or simply mask youth apathy?

      One last comment I would like to make is on the popularity of Barack Obama in Brazil. In a past post, “Will the Elections End up In Another Bradley Effect,” you discuss the racial factor of Barack Obama. The US and Brazil both have a deep racial history, though this is caused by different historical factors that today manifest quite differently. It is interesting that so many Brazilians support Barack Obama (I also saw his face splashed across billboards all over Brazil), when there are so few Afro-Brazilian politicians in relation to their large percentage of the population. Do you think the popularity of Obama in Brazil relates to evolving racial ideals held by the rising generation? Many in the US contribute this to Obama’s popularity amongst the young generation; could it be that Brazilian and American youth are beginning to look more alike as globalization brings us closer together?

    3. Ana Says:

      Paula, thanks for the mention. I’d like to say that as much as Obama and his speech fascinates me, I should be able to think rationally about US elections. Everybody hates republicans here in Brazil, but every unanimity is dumb. That’s why I decided to question: everybody loves Obama, right. But do we have reasons to love him?

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