Foreign policy and defense
During the 2000s, Brazil has moved towards a
clearer and more independent profile in foreign policy
contexts than before. The country generally has stable
relations with its neighboring countries and is a
driving force in international contexts. An important
foreign policy goal is to secure a permanent place in
the UN Security Council.
The fact that Brazil has traditionally focused
inward, both economically and politically, is due to the
country's size, division and linguistic isolation in
Latin America. However, block formation in other parts
of the world has pushed Latin American countries closer
together. Therefore, Brazil joined in 1991 and formed
the regional free trade area Mercosur (Mercosul in
Portuguese) together with Argentina, Paraguay and
Uruguay. It is a customs union with a common market as a
goal. Economic cooperation has also opened up for
increased political exchange. (Venezuela became a member
in 2012 with has been suspended since 2016 when the
country is not considered to follow trade rules or
respect democracy and human rights.)
Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Brazil for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.
President Lula da Silva raised Brazil's international
profile after taking office in 2003. One of his goals
was to deepen cooperation within Mercosur to
counterbalance America's strong influence on the
continent. At the same time, he tried to act as a
suppressive force and counterbalance to more radical
presidential colleagues, such as Hugo Chávez in
Venezuela and Evo Morales in Bolivia.
With Jair Bolsonaro's take-over as president in 2018,
political loyalties were shifted to the right -
Bolsonaro in particular emphasizing his ideological
closeness to US Republican President Donald Trump.
In 2004, Brazil and the other eleven states in South
America laid the foundations for a new economic and
political community, partly with the EU as a model. The
idea was to increase the region's influence in
international trade contexts and counter US dominance. A
basic treaty for the new Union Unsasur was signed in
2008 and it came into force in 2011. But the Union has
hardly come out of the planning stage and in 2018,
Brazil and five other countries suspended their
participation in Unasur until further notice.
Loyal to the United States
Brazil was long loyal to the United States, which
supported the military dictatorship until the late
1970s, when the situation deteriorated as the United
States resisted Brazil's attempts to acquire nuclear
power and criticized the human rights situation in the
country. The relationship remained frosty until the end
of the Cold War 1989–1990.
Thereafter, relations improved even though trade
disputes occasionally made contacts more difficult. On
the personal level, many Brazilians also still feel
bitterness against the United States for its support of
Brazil also has suspicions of the US military
presence in the Amazon to combat drug smuggling from
there to the US and Europe. Although Brazil and the
United States are cooperating on some plan to curb drug
trafficking, Brazil has demanded guarantees that the US
forces in Colombia should operate only on Colombian
soil. But on the whole, Brazil and the United States
today have a well-functioning cooperation.
In 2013, however, relations between the two countries
deteriorated again, after the American "whistleblower"
Edward Snowden revealed that the US security service NSA
was intercepting the peaks of Brazilian society,
including President Rousseff. The disclosure is believed
to have contributed to Brazil choosing to buy JAS Gripen
planes from Swedish Saab instead of F 18 planes from
American Boeing. It also led to the president canceling
a planned official visit to the United States during the
fall (see Calendar).
Disputes with neighboring countries
Brazil's relationship with Argentina's largest
neighboring country is stable, despite repeated trade
disputes. However, the 2019 election of Alberto
Fernández as the new president of Argentina risks
leading to contradictions. President Bolsonaro has said
that the leftist Fernández will turn Argentina into a
With Paraguay, Brazil has had a lengthy dispute over
the use of the Itaipú power plant that the countries
built together in a border river. Ninety percent of the
electricity Itaipú produces goes to Brazil, and the
conflict concerns how much the country will pay. In
2009, the dispute was resolved when Brazil accepted a
three-fold increase in fees.
Relations with the old colonial power of Portugal
changed when the Portuguese dictatorship was buried in
1974. Having previously supported Portugal in the wars
against the liberation movements in the African
colonies, the military government in Brazil completely
reversed and recognized as the first country in the
world the Marxist MPLA regime in Angola. 1975. The
decision was contentious within its own government and
was taken in opposition to the United States.
Brazil was the only Latin American country to
participate in World War II (see Older History). Today,
Brazil is involved in UN peacekeeping efforts. Among
other things, the country led the military part of the
UN stabilization mission Minustah in Haiti from 2004
until it was wound up in 2017.
Brazil has the region's largest military power, but
the importance of the military has diminished since
democracy was restored in 1985. The fight against drug
trafficking in the Amazon is now the military's most
important task. In 2018, however, the army was deployed
to strengthen security in the seriously violent state of
Rio de Janeiro. It was the first time since the fall of
the military dictatorship that the military was used to
strengthen domestic security.
FACTS - DEFENSE
198 000 men (2017)
The air Force
67,500 men (2017)
69,000 men (2017)
Military expenditure's share of GDP
1.4 percent (2017)
Military spending's share of the state budget
3.7 percent (2017)
The Minister of Labor is forced to resign
Labor Minister Carlos Lupi (Democratic Labor Party, PDT) resigns after
bribery charges. He is the sixth minister in six months to leave his post; in
five cases, there have been suspicions of corruption. Rousseff's zero toll
against corruption is popular with the public.
The Minister of Sports is leaving
Sports Minister Orlando Silva submits his resignation application after being
accused of helping to arrange bribes for millions.
New lot is registered
The Social Democratic Party PSD was formed in March when São Paulo Mayor
Gilberto Kassab left the Democrats. It is now officially registered by the
electoral authority. Despite Kassab's background in the opposition party
Democrats, PSD supports President Rousseff's leftist coalition, which now
consists of 14 parties. The PSD is already estimated to be the third largest
grouping in the federal parliament, after about 60 members of the Chamber of
Deputies and at least two senators joined.
The Minister of Tourism is leaving
Minister of Tourism Pedro Novais (PMDB) is forced to go after media reports
that he used public funds to pay private servants. Novais has been stuck for
weeks after the mass arrest of 38 officials in his department in August, which
was due to suspicions of widespread corruption.
The Minister of Agriculture is leaving
Agriculture Minister Wagner Rossi (PMDB) goes after allegations of taking
bribes, which he denies. The president's growing conflict with his own
government coalition has led the Labor Party's main partner PMDB to launch a
masking campaign in Congress, and the Republican Party has left the government
(see July 2011).
The Minister of Defense resigns
Defense Minister Nelson Jobin (PMDB) is dismissed by President Rousseff.
Jobin is accused of derogatory comments about female colleagues. He is replaced
by Celso Amorim, former Foreign Minister.
The Minister of Transport is leaving
The leader of the Republic Party (PR) Alfredo Nascimento resigns as Minister
of Transport after accusations that he led a group of corrupt officials in the
ministry, who took bribes from private contractors for public contracts.
President Rousseff calls for a clean-up in the bribery business and at least 16
officials are forced to leave.
Diplomatic dispute with Italy
Italy revokes its ambassador to Brazil and announces its intention to draw
Brazil before the International Court of Justice in The Hague. The reason is
Brazil's refusal to extradite Cesare Battisti, a former member of an armed
left-wing group that Italy accuses of terrorism and murder committed in the
The president's chief of staff resigns following corruption charges
President Dilma Rousseff's Chief of Staff Antônio Palocci is forced to resign
after being reported to have increased his fortune twenty times over four years
as a political consultant - at the same time as a congressman and coordinator of
Rousseff's presidential campaign. The scandal casts a shadow over the president,
who is accused of poor judgment and inaction.
Welfare programs are launched
The government launches Brazil sem misery (Brazil without misery), which will
lift millions of Brazilians out of extreme poverty. The program is a
continuation of the Bolsa família, which Lula da Silva started during his time
as president (see Social conditions).
Crisis meeting after activist murder
The government is holding a crisis meeting since four environmental
activists, who worked to preserve the rainforest, were murdered in just a few
days. A new report has shown that the harvesting of rainforests in the Amazon
has increased almost sixfold in one year and in the country is raging a
political debate on deforestation.
Growth is reported to be the strongest in 20 years. According to preliminary
estimates from the central bank, the economy grew by around 7.8 percent in 2010,
following a slightly negative growth in the previous year, in the wake of the
global financial crisis.
Natural disaster in Rio de Janeiro
More than 800 people are killed in extensive floods and landslides in the
state of Rio de Janeiro. It is the biggest natural disaster in Brazil in decades
and shows major problems with poorly built housing.
Dilma Rousseff takes office
Brazil's first female president Dilma Rousseff takes office at New Year.