Why the Brazilian Elections on Sunday Are Relevant For People Outside Brazil

Joshua Tartakovsky and Paula Fortes Aguilera Campos
October 26, 2014

The presidential elections in Brazil this Sunday may seem to many in the United States and Europe as an affair that has little relevance to their lives.  In the minds of many Westerners, the elections that are taking place in the southern cone of the Americas where poverty is still wide spread, have little relevance neither for the state of affairs worldwide nor for Western states . This line of thinking however is out of touch with reality. The upcoming elections in which the current Brazilian President Dilma Roussef of the center-left Worker’s Party (PT) will be competing for reelection against Aécio Neves, the former governor of the state of Minas Gerais, leader of the center-right Social Democrat Party, Aécio Neves, will determine the future of not only 200 million Brazilians but of people throughout the world. Here is why:

1) While President Dilma has advocated that Brazil pursue its own  independent foreign policy as a global leader acting independently of Washington’s orbit, Senator Alecio Neves would pursue closer collaboration with the US, according to his economic adviser.  Dilma has pursued close talks with Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa leading to the creation of a $100 billion-strong alternative bank that would compete with the current Western-dominated International Monetary Fund. On the other hand, Neves is arguing for closer ties with the US and Europe which would mean that Brazil would follow Washington’s line and not seek to challenge it globally.  Since the new BRICS development bank will not follow the IMF in seeking to impose the much-criticised ‘Washington Consensus’  on borrowers, the upcoming elections matter greatly not only to the future of a multipolar world but also to many developing countries. The possibility that a new international bank will set more lenient standards for borrowing states and will not force privatization of state bodies is quite significant yet can only be more likely if Brazil participates.

2) While President Dilma called at the UN General Assembly for reforming the Security Council to better reflect new power relations in which emerging economies are no longer on the sideline and pointed to the failure of military force in solving problems in the Middle East, Neves has not dared to challenge the US either in its policy or practice. Indeed, if  Dilma were to be re-elected, we may see Brazil playing a larger role in the Middle East for example, as it has done with Turkey when addressing the Iranian nuclear program, when recognizing Palestine or when withdrawing the Brazilian ambassador to Israel after the latter inflicted heavy strikes on Gaza several months ago . If Neves were to win the elections, however, Brazil is likely to step aside allowing the US to remain the sole most significant actor in the Middle East.

3) Dilma has criticized US spying in Brazil and signed an internet civil rights law that will protect the rights of internet users. Neves, did not address the issue of US spying. This step has implications for internet users not only in Brazil but also in the West.  People living in the United States for example, may ask themselves why people in Brazil deserve privacy and protection from government spying while Americans do not.

4) While Dilma has been calling for minimal wage and Neves has been calling for greater privatizations, many international investors have favored Neves over Dilma.  Although this has not been said explicitly, many suspect that Neves will entirely privatize Brazil’s giant Petrobras (of which 49% is currently owned privately) , and will open it to international investors therefore limiting Brazil’s energy independence. Dilma is hoping to use revenue from the state’s energy sector for education and health.

5) Dilma’s Workers Party  has served as an inspiration and role model for workers throughout Latin America. That Dilma has pushed for a greater protection for worker’s right and a fair pay while at the same time Brazil has largely remained immune to the global economic crisis, means that Brazil has shown that protecting worker’s rights and pursuing social justice need not come at the expense of compromising economic growth. Brazil is seen today by many, not only in Latin America but throughout the world, as a staunch frontier against the aggressive spread of unabated neoliberalism. Should the tide be reversed, Latin America will be moving once again in the direction of unhinged free-market capitalism and workers’ rights will suffer.

Paula Fortes Aguilera Campos is a social science researcher and a resident of Rio de Janeiro. She is a graduate of Fundação Getulio Vargas.

Joshua Tartakovsky is an independent writer and a former teacher at the favela of Rocinha in Rio de Janeiro.  He is a graduate of Brown University and LSE. Thank you to Denirce Cassiano of Curitiba, Brazil for her help with this article. Image credit: agenciabrasil.ebc.com.br