201 Years – something to celebrate?

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By RAFAEL R. IORIS*

Brazil has resumed its historic course as a nation that values ​​multilateralism and negotiated conflict resolution, touchstones of our diplomacy.

History is also marked by milestones, which tend to be celebrated in specific numbers, generally when cycles of decades or centuries close. Last years, we had the shameful celebration of our 200 years of legal emancipation that put an end to the Portuguese colonial yoke on September 7, 1822, when Jair Bolsonaro stole a party that belonged to the nation to defend his stay in power even if, if necessary, by illegitimate means. In the current scenario, of a country defined by deep political and ideological divisions and the return of the coup agenda, still with great popular appeal, is there anything to celebrate?

After four years of destruction of the hard-won democratic institutions, the majority of Brazilians breathed a sigh of relief when, after a historic mobilization in defense of democratic values ​​and culture, Jair Bolsonaro was defeated at the polls in October last year. The coup nightmare represented and led by him, but which unfortunately goes far away from his tragic figure, did not end at the end of the year.

In fact, in early 2023, after the transfer of power that had taken place peacefully until then, supporters of the coup delirium driven by Jair Bolsonaro – and supported by acts and omissions by several members of the Armed Forces! –, they tried, in a brutal way, to destroy the seats of constitutional powers. And although investigations of the coup acts have advanced, it is undeniable that we have regressed in our democratic consolidation since what a few years ago seemed impossible – defending the return of arbitrary forms of power – is today a reality shared by a significant part of the population.

Part of the appeal of the coup thesis is the result of the opportunistic articulation of civil and military forces that in fact never accepted the democratic transition and that took advantage of the erosion of established political forces to resume their usual low instincts. Still, it is undeniable that if this thesis has gained traction in important segments of public opinion in recent times, this also reflects the need for formal democracy to be seen as of interest and value to everyone.

For this to happen, however, what is needed is more (not less!) democracy, both in the sense of a society where citizens feel that their voice is heard and valued, as well as in the sense of a more egalitarian society in the economic sense, racial and cultural. Likewise, given the shameful foreign policy pursued by Jair Bolsonaro, especially during the mandate of the medieval crusader Ernesto Araújo, when our international alignment sought, to a large extent, to please not only the White House, but also the tragic figure of Donald Trump, is there something to celebrate in the international field?

Generally speaking, the answer is unequivocally yes! In fact, although Lula made some gaffes – in general with exacerbated effects by the media and without major consequences for foreign ministries – what is seen is that Brazil has resumed its historic course as a nation that values ​​multilateralism and the negotiated resolution of conflicts, touchstones of our diplomacy, and which, under the baton of a leader with great international respect, once again presents itself to the world as a country with great regional and even global weight.

Lula re-established Brazil's image as an essential environmental actor for negotiations and plans to reduce the crisis linked to global warming, as a defender of democratic values ​​and agendas linked to the terms of economic and social inclusion, and as an emerging economy with great diplomatic weight along to the countries of the so-called Global South. Lula was received by both Joe Biden and Xi Jimping, advances in the resumption of the actions of the Amazon Fund and resumes the agenda of combating hunger on a world scale. Likewise, it reestablishes the universalist tenor and the ability to be heard by the most diverse countries, such as Russia and the European Union, even in the midst of the biggest war involving such actors since the Second World War.

In this sense, although both domestically and internationally, the government actions of the last eight months are unfolding, it is certain that Brazil has a lot to celebrate after the destructive hurricane of recent years. Therefore, not only state actors, but society as a whole can celebrate this and all the next September 7ths, not as the culmination of a historical process, but rather as a milestone in the beginning of the reconstruction of our democracy and a fairest and most respected society in the world.

*Rafael R. Ioris is a professor in the Department of History at the University of Denver (USA).

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