Brazil’s Foreign Minister on Renewing Ties With US, ‘Spiritual Dimension,’ and Political Labels

April 9, 2019 Updated: April 11, 2019
When people use labels, they want to stop the debate.
— Ernesto AraújoBrazil’s minister of foreign affairs


In this installment of American Thought Leaders, Epoch Times senior editor Jan Jekielek recently sat down with Ernesto Araújo, Brazil’s minister of foreign affairs, to discuss the situation in Brazil, on the occasion of President Jair Bolsonaro’s state visit to the White House on March 19.

Jan Jekielek: One of the things that Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro and U.S. President Donald Trump talked about in their joint press conference was a new chapter in U.S.–Brazil cooperation. Tell us what this means.

Ernesto Araújo: We’re very enthusiastic about the opportunity to be here and to come back to where we should have been for a long time, which is a very strong partnership with the United States. That’s the natural thing for Brazil to do.

This natural connectivity was denied by Brazilian governments for a long time for ideological reasons. Things were not judged by the quality, but by the fact that the United States was either in or out of it. So now, we’re coming back.

Since the partnership with the United States was neglected, as a coincidence or not, Brazil started to stagnate and the economy started to not deliver jobs, not deliver growth, and also Brazilian society started to lose faith in its institutions. So now, we’re trying to reconnect. It is a partnership that really can deliver results.

Mr. Jekielek: President Bolsonaro has said that to a large extent, “we owe our democracy in the Southern Hemisphere” to the United States. Can you expand on that?

Mr. Araújo: We were talking about this in the car today, coming back from the Arlington Cemetery—the president [Bolsonaro] said: “Imagine what the world would be without the United States because of all the participation and all the world wars, the reconstruction of the world after World War II.”

More than the purely military or economic dimension, there is the spiritual dimension. I think since the beginning of the republic, the United States has been an inspiration for self-reliance, for a nation that is built on values and, at the same time, on a strong national identity but with freedom, with the famous pursuit of happiness, which is an amazing concept that’s so often forgotten.

Mainstream international relations newspapers and journals basically analyze the world through security and economy. I think they have failed to analyze that sort of spiritual, untouchable dimension, and maybe it’s even more important because human beings naturally desire freedom. When you look at the world and who’s the champion of freedom, it’s been the United States. We cannot deny that.

You cannot put the United States together with other countries that didn’t have the same role just to say, “Well, we have to treat everyone the same.” The reality is that the United States is essential for freedom. And why can you say that? The president says things that are real. That’s why people voted for him.

Mr. Jekielek: You were actually in the Brazilian government previously, in governments that were socialist. Were you just kind of hiding as a conservative all along, or did you have an epiphany? How did things change for you?

Mr. Araújo: I’m a career diplomat, so I had to work with social democratic governments, socialist governments along the years. And for a long time, I found my place in trade negotiations because I thought it was an area where you could do something for the country, for growth independently from, let’s say, the current ideology because trade tends to have a rationality of its own.

And for some time, I confess that I believed in the sort of economic nationalism that was rather protectionist because I think I was misled by the things that I read; no one is perfect. But what happened in Brazil is that that policy space was used for corruption.

And then, I and other people started to realize, we are negotiating to keep this market closed but it’s closed not for the government to implement sound policies, but to ensure there is no external interference in a corrupt system that was basically channeling money from the productive economy into political parties and their members. So that is part of how I started to open my eyes, like many people in Brazilian society.

Also, more and more, I had the feeling that this whole spiritual dimension was sorely lacking in foreign policy. I’m someone who thinks that the spiritual dimension should not be only in the church. It’s not only Sunday morning that people are spiritual beings—they’re spiritual beings 24 hours a day and in whatever they do.

In the Brazilian press, when you say things like that, they will call you a fanatic. It’s a crazy world when you talk about God, you’re labeled as a fanatic. So I started to feel the desire for some sort of political movement that would encompass those different dimensions—the dimension of economic rationality that I saw was lacking, and this spiritual dimension to our work. And, suddenly, Bolsonaro was there, and there was this ship where you could jump to—because Brazilians who had this more conservative leaning didn’t have any political option in Brazil for a long time.

Mr. Jekielek: When describing the Bolsonaro administration, the term “far right” is used regularly. How do you respond to this?

Mr. Araújo: It’s the phenomenon of labeling. This approach that basically the left and cultural Marxists have developed is very efficient for their ends, which is to create concepts that are detached from reality.

When people use labels, they want to stop the debate. When someone has certain ideas, they start calling you fascist or a racist or whatever, like they did with Trump.

And I think the courageous, brave approach of President Trump is starting to break that. Before him, someone may bring certain ideas about how society should work, then someone calls him a racist, and then the person says “No, I’m not a racist,” and then the debate would be about that, and you forget the real issue.

But Trump doesn’t accept that, he keeps trying to discuss. And that’s what we’re trying to learn.

The interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. 

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Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Follow Jan on Twitter: @JanJekielek