By Jung Ho Park
Congratulations, Brazil. You have achieved what Canada or the US has yet to achieve. You have done what most of the world as yet to do, and what Latin America seems increasingly comfortable doing. In just two-and-a-half decades of your young democracy, you have elected your first woman to the highest office of your land.
The presidenta-eleita, Dilma Rousseff, is a former Marxist guerrilla who fought against a military dictatorship, was captured, and then tortured during her two years of incarceration. Her later political rise was low-profile and in fact, she was completely unknown and would have remained so, where it not for the successful support from her predecessor. Still-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, or “Lula” for short, has long been a charismatic political “star.” Even Obama, the star of stars in global politics, exclaimed, “That’s my man right here…Love this guy. He’s the most popular politician on earth. It’s because of his good looks.” Lula, the centre-leftist who is credited, among other things, with lifting 20 million Brazilians out of poverty and nabbing both the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, is insanely popular. In a huge country with nearly 200 million people, Lula has good relations with an incredible 80% of them. Can Obama say that?
In fact, Lula’s optimistic outlook reflects Brazil’s optimism. It is an optimism that AIESECers who are setting their sights abroad cannot ignore. Nowadays, there seem to be few high-profile countries of the Western World with that kind of optimism. The obvious exceptions are Canada and Australia, but the thing is, those two countries always lived rich. Brazil has been and to this day is a developing country. After some 50 years of “Brazil is the country of future! Any moment now…”, Brazil has never had it as good. Those crazy hyperinflations and dictatorships of the past, the disfiguring inequality that seemed to be worsening in urban favelas and the rural Northeast – all that seem to be a slowly receding nightmare. Brazil was one of the last to go into recession in 2009, and one of the first to get out. And as if things were not good enough, it keeps discovering and then re-discovering tons and tons of off-shore oil. It’s like, how much of good news does Brazil really need? In light of all this optimism, as an AIESECer, I can see many great things coming for AIESEC Brazil and all its local committees. What are the prospects of AIESEC Brazil’s future in an outgoing, more prosperous Brazil? How much can AIESEC Canada and AIESEC Brazil’s relations grow?
Of course, there are the endless comparisons. In many ways, Brazil is the China of its region. Except, it’s not. China grabs most of the headlines, but some of them seem to be less-than-positive things. In contrast, Brazil’s relations with its ten neighbors are good. In fact, Brazil has a reputation as a “mediator” in the region – in a good way. Unlike other emerging giants, Brazil’s rise is more or less welcomed by her Hispanic neighbours. It has managed to strike stable relations with everyone from Hugo Chavez to Barack Obama, which is not an easy feat.
Then there is that BRIC thing, of course. We are reminded of the so-called BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) Group frequently in the international media (although I have mixed feelings on the acronym and would rather remove the C (it belongs to another level, in my opinion), and perhaps add South Africa and Turkey. Hmm, how about BRISAT? Oh well, IBSA is close enough). Still, Brazil is attracting quite a level of attention, and its rise reflects its leadership role of the Lusophone community, and its increasing presence in Portuguese Africa. Brazil’s historically unprecedented prosperity should definitely make it a strong candidate for AIESECers looking for a place to make their mark abroad.
This is not to say that Brazil has few problems. The bureaucracy, corruption, and inadequate infrastructure are so problematic, they have created a name for it: the Brazil Cost. There is still gang violence, fuelled by drugs and poverty (video). Brazilian economy is still too commodity-driven, and way too influenced by China. For example, China’s hunger for primary resources means more soy farms (yet another cash crop) while its cheap goods have seriously hurt local goods like shoes. Not to mention deforestation (although that seems to be slowing a bit). Its public education needs serious fixing. And so on.
Unlike before, however, the problems do not seem insurmountable. Brazil is now carrying serious weight: it is the 5th largest country, the 5th most populated, the 4th largest democracy, has the most Catholics, the most Japanese outside of Japan, the most “Africans” outside of Nigeria, the most tropical biodiversity, and is predicted to be the 5th largest economy by the time the 2016 Olympics roll around. In the end, some Brazilians and Brazil observers like to distinguish the Samba nation from the BRICs, and it goes something like this: “Unlike China and Russia, we are democratic; unlike Russia, we are optimistic; unlike Russia and India, we do not have terrorism; and unlike all three of them, not only are we a non-nuclear power, none of the many states that border us are nuclear powers as well.” That may be so, but Brazil is not without its significant, pressing challenges, albeit nothing as threatening as those facing the others. In the meantime, however, the people are happier than ever, and business is growing more and more. AIESEC Brazil, no doubt, is set to grow as well. Life is good, or at least getting better. Everything’s fine, everything’s ok.
Tudo bem, tudo bom.