• On Crumbling Ground

    In Brazil, Berlin seeks to expand cooperation with Lula, to make up for its loss of influence in that country. Think tank discerns growing distance between EU und Latin America.

    BRASÍLIA/BERLIN (Own report) – Berlin reacted with relief, when the movement to overthrow the Brazilian government was crushed. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz affirms “we stand closely by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.” According to reports, Scholz is planning to visit the South American country soon. Berlin is seeking to use the changeover in the Brazilian presidency from Jair Messias Bolsonaro to Lula to bolster German influence in Brazil, which has been significantly declining over the past years. As a recent analysis of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) notes, the German government must face the fact that Berlin's and the EU's policy have led to serious friction, not only in Brazil, but also throughout Latin America, over the past few years. Its refusal to supply Covid-19 vaccines, while simultaneously campaigning against Chinese vaccines, for example, has not exactly aroused sympathy for the EU. The policy of sanctions against Russia is also rejected on the subcontinent. SWP explicitly warns, “common ground is crumbling.” Read more

  • BERLIN/BRUSSELS/BRASÍLIA (Own report) - The German export industry hails the free trade agreement between the EU and South America's Mercosur trade block. The agreement concluded at the end of last week, following 20 years of negotiations, will drastically lower the tariffs that have been protecting the industries of the four Mercosur member nations, including Brazil. Exporters from the EU will thus obtain access to these countries. According to the EU Commission, this will save €4 billion in tariffs benefiting, largely, German enterprises, the EU's major Mercosur suppliers. Conversely, the agreement opens the EU's agricultural markets to the South American agro-industry - to the detriment, in particular, of French and Irish farmers. In fact, Berlin has imposed the agreement in spite of resistance from Paris. Protest is also being raised in South America, with trade unions warning that it could be a "death sentence" for the local industry, reducing Mercosur to a colonial status of raw materials supplier for the EU and sales market for European companies. Read more

  • BERLIN (Own report) - With a Latin America-Caribbean Conference, the German Foreign Ministry is launching a new political offensive in the struggle for influence in Latin America. Germany and the EU's influence on the subcontinent has been stagnating, while China's importance is growing. The government hopes to counteract this development by helping German companies to increase their opportunities in Latin America - and this at a time when massive protest is being raised against German companies' activities, for example, in Brazil. The Brazilian judiciary has currently taken action against the Technical Control Board (TÜV) South, for its alleged complicity in a dam burst in January of this year, killing more than 250 people. Brazilian activists are also accusing the Bayer and BASF companies of selling agricultural poisons in their country, which are banned in the EU. Over the past decade, more than 2,000 people have died in Brazil from agrochemicals. Berlin is also envisaging the inclusion of Latin American countries into NATO structures. Read more

  • BERLIN/BRASÍLIA/BOGOTÁ (Own report) - Under pretext of rallying "allies for human rights," Germany's Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas (SPD) will meet the two most right-wing presidents of South America. His interlocutor on Tuesday, Jair Messias Bolsonaro, is an avowed supporter of Brazil's military dictatorship. Already within the first month of his incumbency, police murders have drastically increased in his country. Columbia's President Iván Duque, whom Maas will meet thereafter, opposes the peace treaty with the FARC insurgents. Over the past two and a half years, more than 300 government opponents have been assassinated in that country - in most cases with impunity. While the foreign ministry is speaking of having a "foundation of shared values" with Bolsonaro and Duque, Berlin is actually seeking to rally allies in its struggle against China and Russia and to strengthen its position in Latin America vis-à-vis Washington. It is also striving to obtain access to sanctions-proof markets for Germany's export industry. Read more

  • BERLIN/BRASÍLIA (Own report) - The German Ministry for Economic Affairs is calling for an expansion of business with Brazil since the inauguration of its rightwing extremist President Jair Messias Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro's government will probably "facilitate investment and trade conditions for foreign companies," therefore "the time to bet on Brazil is now," according to the ministry's written invitation to business initiation trip in the "civil security" sector. Brazil offers the best opportunities, since that South American country has one of the highest murder rates in the world and the government has announced additional expenditures to combat crime. The current president took a stand during his election campaign in favor of police murder of criminals. Military officers make up more than one-third of his cabinet, and his vice president has called for the military to take power, on various occasions. In fact, the armed forces have already begun to correct official presidential decisions to concord with their concepts. Read more

  • BERLIN/BRASÍLIA (Own report) - German business circles are placing high hopes on Brazil's President-elect Jair Messias Bolsonaro pointing to the economic program of Paulo Guedes, designated to head a super ministry. During Augustino Pinochet's military dictatorship, he was a professor at the University of Chile and his program resembles the economic policy of the Chilean Junta. Since about a year, Guedes has been Bolsonaro's advisor. The Brazilian business community is hailing Bolsonaro, particularly the National Confederation of Industry (CNI), where German businesses hold strong positions. CNI is the Brazilian partner of the Federation of German Industries (BDI). German companies had already cooperated with the Brazilian military dictatorship. Bolsonaro's victory is a deathblow to the policy of cautious redistribution in favor of impoverished segments of society, pursued by Presidents Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff. This policy was essentially ended with the May 2016 cold putsch - under applause of German business representatives. Read more