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UFES 2009

Brazil: The Giant Down South


If Barack Obama came to visit Brazil— and he should— we would impress him with our bigness in everything. We might even cause him to ponder just what all this bigness and ambition means for the United States.

If Obama came, we would show him not just a good time, but a great time. He could join the biggest party on earth (Carnaval) or go to the biggest football stadium in the world (Maracanã) to watch the biggest, or at least the winningest, national team in action. We would awe Obama with our geography. We’re bi-hemispherical, crossed by the equator on top and laying our feet near the South Pole. We can sweat and freeze at the same time. We occupy more than half of South America, we have the biggest river and the biggest iron-ore reserves on earth, and might just become one of the world’s leading exporters of oil in the not-so-distant future. And if that doesn’t work— or if our oil runs out— we will surely become the leading producer of biofuel. Our reputation for ethnic harmony is a bit undeserved but, still, ours is the biggest experiment in racial integration and miscegenation in history. We have a big, leftist (more or less) government but also a capitalist economy and are on the way to developing a big popular consumer market for our own products and for imports. We also have the widest spread between rich and poor in the world, however, along with the ugliest shantytowns and probably the worst corruption scandals. When not having fun or being awed, Obama would have much to think about. He may see us as a semitropical China, a giant stretching its limbs and demanding attention— but a different kind of attention than it got in the past. He may notice that we have Americanized, or McDonaldized, to a high degree, but notice, too, a sense in the land that it’s time our bigness started to pay off and deliver on the future it promised. This might mean standing up like a giant in defiance of old attitudes and submissions. Obama might view moderate Brazil as a good ally against the radical populists popping up throughout the continent in the wake of failed neoliberal economics, or he may see us as an emerging geopolitical threat. There are people in Brazil who are sure that the United States is redeploying the Fourth Fleet to the South Atlantic just to show us who’s really big. We have big ambitions— but big paranoia, too.

(Veríssimo, Luis Fernando. Newsweek, 28-07-2008.)


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