Power Party 

Evaluating the Brasilia Consensus ahead of the 2024 summit. 

In May 2024, the picturesque backdrop of Chile will serve as the stage for the second summit of the Brasilia Consensus, a grand alliance of South American nations, including powerhouses like Argentina and Brazil, as well as smaller nations like Guyana and Suriname. This conglomerate aims to stitch together a tapestry of “shared values” across the continent, aspiring to amplify South America’s voice on the global stage while championing human rights and democracy. 

An international policy consultant remarked that the Brasilia Consensus “was created to undertake concrete and articulated actions to address various challenges or threats affecting the region.” It has emerged as a beacon of regional cooperation. Yet, its mission and sprawling agenda, which include tackling organised crime, bolstering food security and enhancing social infrastructure, reveal an ambitious yet somewhat nebulous roadmap.  

The group plans to have the member states’ foreign ministers meet regularly to weave their disparate threads into a cohesive strategy, even though “the consensus has no regulatory framework, nor anything resembling enforcement,” remarked a Director in a Multinational Organisation. Another Director at a networking platform connecting UK and Brazilian companies and investors continued, “Smoothing infrastructure should be a top priority. Some fiscal and economic integration and watching for macroeconomic stability should also be an important part of the integration.” 

However, the utility and coherence of this bloc are under scrutiny. Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (“Lula”), a seasoned advocate of regional integration, champions these coalitions. A university professor and consultant on international policy issues observed, “Lula’s foreign policy proposal focuses on regaining his position as a regional leader by fostering cohesion amid fragmented regional dynamics.”

Lula’s foreign policy proposal focuses on regaining his position as a regional leader by fostering cohesion amid fragmented regional dynamics.

University professor and consultant on international policy issues, Brazil

Uruguay’s President Luis Lacalle Pou has critiqued such groups as potentially becoming “ideological clubs” that only survive as long as they echo the members’ ideologies. The university professor gave the example of another Lula-initiated group, Unasur, founded in 2008, “which has already generated certain misgivings from those who, like the president of Uruguay, see a contradiction between promoting democracy and non-interference in internal affairs, and not condemning regimes such as Maduro’s.” 

The first meeting of the Brasilia Consensus “focused on three main axes: migration, greater cooperation in the face of natural disasters, and the fight against organised crime and drug trafficking,” reported the consultant on international policy issues with 30 years of recognised experience. This exposed deep ideological fractures, mainly due to Uruguay and Chile’s reluctance to align with Brazil’s softer stance towards Venezuela. Chile’s President Gabriel Boric firmly believes that Venezuela, with its questionable democratic credentials, has no place in a group that champions democracy. 

Lula seeks to be a mediator as he has been with the Venezuela-Guaya conflict, explained the consultant on international policy issues. Lula, who has focused a lot on regaining the trust of international organisations, has broader foreign policy aspirations. Inspired by former Brazilian President Henrique Cardoso, Lula emphasises Brazil’s autonomy and strategic non-alignment with Western powers. This stance with the West, which was successfully propagated through the BRICS bloc, is not so easily replicated within Latin America. It is more challenging due to the regional wariness of Brazil’s perceived dominance as the continent’s largest economy and cultural powerhouse. The director of a networking platform commented, “the Brasilia Consensus has no enforcement power, and therefore, no big results should be expected.” 

the Brasilia Consensus has no enforcement power, and therefore, no big results should be expected. 

Director at a networking platform connecting UK and Brazil companies 

Issues such as organised crime are particularly challenging given South America’s long and porous borders and the lack of political will for collective action and resource allocation. “Political integration is impossible in Latin America, and ideology plays too important a role,” the investor networking director attested. “The integration should be implemented firstly among certain economic sectors where South America is key, for instance, for the world’s food and energy safety.” 

“Lula is a capable leader but too vocal.” The Latin American Politics and Economics at IE University Chair expanded, “In his previous terms, most of the countries in South America belonged to left political parties, but that is not the case anymore, so his role as a leader in the region will not be so easy.” The consultant on international policy issues hoped the Brasilia Consensus would be “an opportunity to regain confidence and its leadership position at the regional level, which will be strengthened with the next leaders’ summit to be held at the end of this year, and the COP30 in 2025.”

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