In January of this year, Brazil rejoined CELAC (the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) with hopes of reestablishing political, social, and economic ties with other countries in the region.
CELAC is an intragovernmental bloc of 33 countries that aim to cooperate in the fields of education, democracy building, combatting poverty and food insecurity, and developing economic and technological infrastructure.
Since CELAC was formed in 2010, Brazil has been actively involved in the bloc. However, due to the political and ideological stances of Bolsonaro’s government, Brazil withdrew from CELAC in 2020, which negatively affected its political and economic ties with other countries in the region, especially those with communist governments.
With Lula’s return to the presidency, Brazil aims to resume its role as a regional mediator, promote regional diplomatic ties and cooperation, especially with regard to post-pandemic economic recovery, and pursue bilateral and multilateral agreements with the world’s leading economic blocs.
In addition, Brazil seeks to further integration of South American countries into Mercosur (the Southern Common Market). It seeks to rebuild bridges and bolster political and economic relations that had been undermined by political tensions among members. These ties had also been strained by economic reforms that attempted to lower costs by creating a more flexible bloc. Under those reforms, CELAC countries could pursue bilateral treaties with third-party countries without the approval of regional partners.
The 7th CELAC Summit produced important guidelines for regional development, especially for this post-pandemic period.
Lula announced that Brazil was back on the international stage and declared his intention to rejoin CELAC to reestablish alliances and pave the way towards democracy and peaceful cooperation in the region. The Brazilian president has prioritized negotiation and is pursuing solutions for challenges facing not only Latin American societies, but the world as a whole.
The summit examined solutions to common challenges that countries in the region face, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, including addressing food insecurity, eradicating poverty and hunger, combatting climate change, and maintaining democracy, among others.
Latin America suffers from high levels of food insecurity. According to a 2022 report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 29.3% of people worldwide face food insecurity, while 40.6% of Latin America’s population is food insecure. In searching for a solution, Lula stated that CELAC and Brazil were committed to working together to develop joint strategies to create sustainable production chains.
Climate change is a major force reshaping the world’s destiny. In Latin America, ice in melting in the Andes, while extreme weather events such as floods, droughts, hurricanes, and epidemics disproportionally impact the poor. Lula drew attention to Brazil’s immense potential for renewable energy production, which would enable the country to participate in global energy transitions. Similarly, he highlighted his government’s environmental policies, including preventing deforestation and promoting sustainable development. Moreover, Lula emphasized the importance of joining forces to build digital and physical infrastructure and to invest further in research and innovation across the region.
Brazil indicated that defending democracy primarily depends upon combatting extremism, inequality, and misinformation. One of the dangers of extremism is the spread of hate speech driven by data manipulation and fake news. In order to protect democracy, it will be necessary to invest significantly in education, combat corruption, and regulate digital communications. CELAC countries agreed to coordinate across the region to combat hate speech on social media, which can hinder open dialogue between people with differing or opposing viewpoints. Regulation of internet and social media is a controversial approach since, in some cases, it can also be seen as censorship.
Brazil proposed introducing a common currency for transactions among Mercosur countries and later pursuing a shared currency for Mercosur and BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). Lula explained that many countries find it difficult to buy dollars, which poses an obstacle to economic growth. A common currency would strengthen the economy of these countries, which would no longer need to spend their currency reserves on dollars.
Brazil’s National Bank for Economic and Social Development (BNDES) is also once again financing development projects in neighboring countries so that the region can grow together. These loans help create both jobs and technologies to further the development of regional infrastructure and exports.
Brazil’s has rejoined CELAC as part of a geopolitical logic through which it aims to become a regional leader in international negotiations. Brazil has also reestablished itself as a major player in large-scale international projects, through expanding the market and pursuing scientific and technological development.