Latin America on the boil

Avis Newman, The Wing on the Wind of Madness, 1982


Preface from the organizers of the recently released book

This book is the result of the production of the Working Group on Latin America of the Observatory of Foreign Policy and International Insertion of Brazil (OPEB) of the Federal University of ABC (UFABC) between the months of March and November 2023. It consists of 53 articles prepared by 24 researchers and were originally published in newsletter electronically and on the Observatory website. Political and economic issues are addressed, as well as topics such as social rights, behavior, culture and sport, in a broad, plural and varied view of international politics.

The articles are grouped into six sections, which were organized based on the association between thematic and regional criteria. The first part, “Continental Challenges”, brings together texts that analyze, among other topics, the inflection of Brazilian foreign policy from 2023 onwards. The articles in which the balance of 100 days of Lula's foreign policy and the president's speech are carried out at the UN General Assembly express a diplomatic turn in relation to the four years of the Jair Bolsonaro government.

Its best definition came from former chancellor Ernesto Araújo. When commenting on the guidelines of his administration, based on anachronistic anti-communism, scientific denialism and by filtering the country's connections through an ideological prism that implied preferential relations with governments and far-right groups, Ernesto Araújo came away with the following pearl: if the performance government “makes us an international pariah, so let us be that pariah”.

The change of course also exposes current intentions and limitations. The year began with exuberant demonstrations of presidential diplomacy, with Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva participating in forums and negotiations, summarized in a slogan: “Brazil is back”. With this, the country regained a prominent position in the defense of environmental sustainability, in the presentation of peace proposals for the war in Ukraine, in the negotiations of the Mercosur-European Union treaty, in the resumption of continental integration policies and institutions and in several opportunities in the within the scope of BRICS, G-20 and the United Nations (UN).

However, the genocide in Gaza committed by Israel, after suffering a military attack by Hamas in early October, exposed the international limitations of a country that has not resolved serious and long-standing internal problems. This happened precisely when Brazil assumed the presidency of the Security Council.

The great equation to be resolved is how to play a leading role in a world in conflict without having a national defense policy, without an autonomous weapons industry, maintaining armed forces subordinate to the strategies of the dominant power, presenting strong deindustrializing tendencies and once again giving way to an economic policy neoliberal? Such dilemmas are expressed in the pages below, and are also identified in the paths taken by Latin American countries in the face of enormous international challenges.

The second, third and fourth parts of the book, “North America”, “Central America” and “South America” bring together articles that deal with different aspects of social, political and economic reality, including, for example, the participation of women in the political dynamics of the region. The group dedicated itself to monitoring the electoral processes taking place in 2023, generating articles that address the presidential elections in Argentina, Paraguay, Guatemala and Ecuador, having also focused on internal political tensions in Chile, Colombia, Bolivia and institutional instability in Peru. The political game between the progressive sectors that are in power in most of these countries and their respective internal opposition did not go unnoticed by the GT researchers on Latin America.

In the fifth part, “Beyond the map”, there are texts that deal with topics that are not very common in academia and journalism when they address the American continent. Research on subjects as diverse as status of marijuana in the region and the Latin American winners of the Nobel Prize, or even the role of the cultural industry with the Barbie doll, were expressed in texts that contribute to a multifaceted vision of Latin America.

The last part concentrates texts that discuss the prospects for the political future of the continent, given the permanence of far-right threats in some countries in the region. The articles are intermediate between quality journalism and academic productions. stricto sensu. In other words, they present agile language, in-depth treatment of issues and a plurality of opinions. It is worth noting that many of these articles have been the target of attention from the country's non-hegemonic press. Due to the quality of the treatment of sources and the direct and accessible language, some GT articles were reproduced by other platforms and media – such as the earth is round, Brasil de Fato, Jornal GGN, DCM, Le Monde Diplomatique and Other Words –, contributing to the visibility of the work developed by GT researchers.

OPEB was created at the end of 2018 with the aim of researching and reflecting on international relations under Jair Bolsonaro's government. Since then, through uninterrupted collective work by ten working groups that involved almost three hundred researchers, the Observatory has established itself as a reference for those interested in foreign policy, mixing academic rigor and approaches accessible to a broad public.

The GTs are: Latin America, International Trade, Human Rights, Diversity and inequality, Brazil's international economic insertion, Environment, agriculture and climate change, Defense policy, security and military issues, Brazil-China Relations, Brazil-USA Relations and Relations with Africa. All of them had the direction of professors with doctorates and the active participation of undergraduate and postgraduate student-researchers from the Bachelor of International Relations and the postgraduate programs in International Relations (PRI) and World Political Economy (EPM).

During this period, we established partnerships with the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES), the Brazilian Association of Non-Governmental Organizations (Abong), the Diplomacy Institute for Democracy and the Tricontinental Center, in addition to supporting the production of podcast “Women on the Map” in partnership with the Association of Brazilian Women Diplomats (AMDB) and the Latin American Foreign Policy Research Center (NUPELA).

The work is specifically focused on the dilemmas and challenges faced by Latin America, but without losing sight of the possibilities of interaction with the issues addressed by the other OPEB GTs. Our continent reaches the turn of the years 2023/24 immersed in immense difficulties resulting from three years of pandemic, global inflationary pressure resulting from the war in Ukraine and the fierce East-West confrontation.

In recent years, such disputes have gained new actors: far-right parties with a mass base, which won elections in Brazil and El Salvador and which are advancing in Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, among others in the region. They find fertile ground in the marked precariousness of working conditions, housing and public services motivated by fiscal adjustment policies, adopted by right-wing, center-wing and even left-wing governments. Marked by endless budget cuts, privatizations and erosion of social rights, they end up concentrating income, maximizing profits for large conglomerates and favoring high finance. At the base of society, they bring discouragement and hopelessness in politics. And they open the door to right-wing extremists, with supposedly moralist and salvationist proposals.

Overcoming this zero-sum game between two aspects that do not alter the structures that generate inequality, exclusion and the lack of perspectives for the majority will only be achieved by taking as a starting point the survey, research and diagnosis of our secular problems.

This book has the healthy intention of helping in these studies.

*Gilberto Maringoni is a journalist and professor of International Relations at the Federal University of ABC (UFABC).

*Ismara Izepe de Souza is a professor of International Relations at Unifesp.

*Bruno Fabricio Alcebino da Silva He is majoring in International Relations and Economic Sciences at the Federal University of ABC (UFABC).


Gilberto Maringoni, Ismara Izepe de Souza, Bruno Fabricio Alcebino da Silva (orgs.). Latin America on the boil: Reflections on a continent in search of meaning. São Paulo, Editora Alameda, 2023.

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