In an increasingly multilateral world, Brazil will soon rise as Latin America’s first superpower, said visiting professor Leslie Armijo ’78 in a lecture titled “Brazil as an Emerging World Power?” last Friday.
Throughout the lecture at the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Armijo, a political science professor at Portland State University, examined the international repercussions of Brazil’s current political and economic strengths.
According to Armijo, Brazil’s current rise in the international panorama should be analyzed by studying its developments not only as international actor, but also as a middle and regional power.
To a large extent, Brazil emerges in power within these three categories because of the enormous size of its economy, population and military, Armijo said.
“Brazil is part of the global top 10 on each of these categories,” she added.
As a middle power, Armijo said that Brazil presents a very interesting case: most middle powers, such as Mexico, are not regional powers because of the overpowering strength of its neighboring countries. Yet Brazil, being a middle power, breaks with the norm since it is also considered a regional power.
Brazil’s unusual regional authority stems, primarily, from its efforts to define itself as mirror of South America as whole, according to Armijo. This, she said, has given Brazil great control over its home continent.
Brazil keeps solidifying itself as leader of its region by launching a series of integration projects that aim at the democratization of its geographical zone, Armijo furthered.
As an international actor, Brazil has also taken a larger share of world politics by incrementing its already strong presence in economic initiatives, such as the International Finance Facility and the G20, Armijo said. As part of the G20, Brazil is currently a powerful advocate for more agricultural trade between developing and industrial countries. Likewise, she said, the country’s presence is particularly strong in the IFF as the president of one of the largest Brazilian banks is also the third-in-power within the organization.
The professor noted Brazil’s recent sharp interest in becoming part of the United Nations’ Security Council as yet another indication of the country’s yearning to expand its international power scope.
For Armijo, Brazil’s case reflects, in a more comprehensive scope, the international political and economic changes that are giving rise to the BRIC countries, an acronym for Brazil, Russia, India and China.
Nonetheless, amidst its amazing solidification in political and economic terms, “Brazil is not a great power; it is still kind of a sleeper,” Armijo said. “Is Brazil an emerging power? Yes. Is it a world power? No.”
Armijo said that Brazil’s rising prominence derives from its solid democratic rule and its strong economy. “However, Brazil has to be very careful not to offend its neighbors. Its cooperative and friendly policies in South America are what make it a regional power,” she added.
She concluded: “Soon, we’ll have two superpowers in the Western Hemisphere,” in reference to the United States and Brazil.
The lecture was poorly attended, with only three students in the audience.
Rachel Kahn ’11, one of the students, said Cornell’s academic program reflects the importance of emerging superpowers such as Brazil. She said she has recently seen a rise in available courses related to developing countries and listed a large number of relevant classes in the Latin American Studies Program.
On the other hand, Prof. Ken Roberts, government, who is also the Robert S. Harrison Director of the Institute for the Social Science, said there is a “student demand for more than what we’ve been able to offer.”
The event was organized by postdoctoral associate Gustavo Flores-Macias as part of the Latin American Speaker Series.