La politica brasileña en materia de regionalismo. Discurso y desarrollo institucional en el Mercosur.

Autor:de Almeida Medeiros, Marcelo


En el último decenio se ha insistido en señalar que el Mercosur tiene prioridad en la política exterior del Brasil. Sin embargo, durante este tiempo la integración regional no ha aumentado ni se ha profundizado.

El presente artículo procura explicar este vacío entre el discurso y la práctica mediante un examen de las características de la política brasileña en materia de regionalismo. El análisis se basa en un estudio de caso sobre la creación del Parlamento del Mercosur en 2006. En principio, sostenemos que en gran medida el institucionalismo discursivo y la teoría de los sistemas internacionales pueden explicar por qué Brasil ha mantenido distancia del Mercosur y la limitada interdependencia que se ha construido entre los países que lo componen. La conclusión apunta a que se ha producido un regionalismo débil que facilita la acción del Brasil en el plano internacional.

PALABRAS CLAVE: Brasil, regionalismo, Parlamento del Mercosur, política exterior


During the past decade, Mercosur has been insistently presented as the priority of Brazilian foreign policy. Nevertheless, in this period regional integration has neither deepened nor enlarged. This article aims to explain this gap between discourse and practice by examining how Brazil's regionalism policy is characterized. The analysis is based on a case study of the creation of Mercosur's Parliament in 2006. Theoretically, we argue that discursive institutionalism and international regimes theory can largely account for the detachment of Brazil from Mercosur and the limited interdependence that has been built among these countries. The conclusion points to the induction of a low-impact regionalism that facilitates Brazil's actions at the international level.

KEYWORDS: Brazil, Regionalism, Mercosur, Mercosur Parliament, Foreign Policy


Which Brazilian policy for regionalism? Discourse and institutional development in Mercosur

In practical terms, maybe we shouldn't have so much confidence in the strict majority vote in international organizations and more confidence in the concurrent majority requirement and the forms of representation that are created. (Deutsch, 1981: 232)

In the field of foreign policy, the Southern Common Market (Mercosur) had always been the declared priority of the Brazilian government under Lula. Strengthening relations with its South American neighbors, mainly with Argentina, was considered strategic by the government. Regional integration already hada preeminent place in the 2002 Worker's Party's (PT, abbreviation in Portuguese) Government Program, referred to as the main foreign policy tool at the very beginning of the document. Reconstructing Mercosur through policy-coordination and the creation of political and juridical institutions was seen as a > in this area (Palocci, 2002: 6). In his first international visitas president, in December 2002, Lula stated in Buenos Aires that Mercosur deserved an > (1). On that occasion, he expressly mentioned the need for common institutions to improve political cooperation, proposing the creation of a directly elected parliament. In the following years, Brazil was indeed a central actor in the establishment of the Mercosur Parliament (Parlasur) in 2006.

Nevertheless, Parlasur was one of Mercosur's very few achievements of the 2000s. Structural funds were approved in the same > as a means of convincing Uruguay and mostly Paraguay of agreeing to the assembly. But the main barriers to the consolidation of the common market still persisted, such as limitations to free trade, difficulties in managing and expanding the common external tariff and the lack of free movement of people and policy-harmonization. Governmental discourse about regional integration in the end did not turn into practice, which became more evident during Lula's second mandate. The 2006 Government Program barely mentioned Mercosur, which was discreetly included in the topic > (Garcia, 2006: 14). From 2007 on, the government devoted its attention to broad South-South relations, enhancing its dialogue with Asian and African partners. Latin America was still a priority, but attention was focused on new agreements rather than to the older Mercosur. This trend continues in the first years of Dilma's presidency.

Do these events representa change in the Brazilian policy for regionalism or the continuity of a strategy initiated some years ago? This article aims to analyze the motivations behind Brazilian decisions in the regional arena. In order to do so, we first present the theoretical bases of our analysis. They are guided by the idea according to which regional integration in Latin American in general, and in Mercosur in particular, is notable to surpass the so-called interdependence threshold, that is, to achieve real economic integration capable of creating a new register for politics beyond the nation-state. Brazil represents more than 2/3 of the wealth, population and territory of Mercosur and its trade exchanges are progressively more diversified. This interdependence threshold is accentuated by the relative cultural eccentricity of Brazil in relation to Latín America. In spite of sharing historical experiences with its Spanish-speaking neighbors, Brazil often adopts an isolationist position reinforced by its continental dimensions and its particular colonization process (Galvão, 2009: 74). As Fernand Braudel (apud Martinière, 1978: 41) states, >.

The second part sheds light on the Mercosur's main institutional evolution during the past years: the creation of Parlasur. Brazilian support for the regional parliament contributes to the understanding of the Brazilian perspective on Mercosur itself. We argue that the intention of prioritizing regional integration was limited and more of a rhetorical exercise than a real policy. Instead of deepening Mercosur, authorities were looking to consolidate Brazil as an emerging power by re-launching South-South relations. This strategy confirms the persistency of the Nation-State in contemporary politics and new ways regionalism is being applied in the 21st century.


Within Latin America, Brazil's case is emblematic especially because its economy is the least dependent on Mercosur. With the economic reforms initiated during Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Lula's governments, Brazil began a process of detachment, distancing itself from Mercosur and acting on its own. Positive results of these reforms have increased the power asymmetries among Mercosur countries. This detachment can be explained through the combination of two theories related to institutional change: discursive institutionalism and international regimes perspective.

According to Vigevani and Cepaluni (2007: 1310), there is no important rupture in Brazilian foreign policy in the period 1994-2010, but simply distinct emphases on already established objectives. Both Fernando Henrique and Lula's governments searched to achieve economic development and political autonomy with their external actions. Differences lie in the degree of autonomy and how it is maximized: through distance, participation or diversification (Vigevani and Cepaluni, 2007: 1313). Discursive institutionalism perspective treats change as an endogenous process, thus offering a prominent place to Nation-States in regional integrations. It relativizes the direct impact of exogenous actions, arguing that discourse and ideas should be taken seriously to explain institutional change. Discursive institutionalism > (Schmidt, 2010: 1). Peter and Ernst Haas have also worked on the relations between ideas and the pragmatic tradition, mixing the cornerstones for constructivism and philosophy of science. According to these authors, > (2002: 574). All of these authors emphasize the importance of epistemic communities as innovations, both in order to explain institutional change and to influence the conception of foreign policy.

The elaboration of Brazilian foreign policy has not always been followed by effective implementation. Differences among discourse, diplomatic practice and real institutionalization are not new and they have strongly marked this field in the last decade (2). From the 1980s on, regional integration has become central in the discourse related to foreign policy. Simon Bolivar's idea was appropriated by decision-makers and became a real leitmotiv. In spite of the functionalist vocation of Mercosur, in light of the failures of the Andean Pact, its contractual ambitions are still beyond the effective capacity of its members to reach agreement. The fact that the common external tariff is not completely implemented reveals the development asymmetries and the gap between discourse and practice. In fact, Mercosur has been diffusing a self-image quite different from the facts, which is reflected in the representations built by the Brazilian discourse. During a Mercosur summit in 2004, Lula affirmed that > (3). Nevertheless, economic data shows that this prosperity has not caused an increase in trade within Mercosur. Externally, it seems to be based on the individual participation of Brazil in forums like the BRICS, BASIC or G-20. Internally, it has been guiding the implementation of public policies aimed to decrease the heterogeneity of the national territory, which is marked by strong inequality (4). Mercosur has not been able to establish institutional venues for the redistribution of Brazilian prosperity beyond its national borders (5).

This situation did not prevent Brazilian authorities from continuing to construct a discourse that is far from reality but seeks to legitimate regional integration and, by extension, Brazilian foreign policy itself. Lula's efforts to establish a parliament in Mercosur can be understood in this context. Five years after the official inauguration, Parlasur' progress is limited and the established agenda has yet...

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