Site icon Conservation news

What is the Brazilian Brand?

An economic and social powerhouse, Brazil has burst forth on to the world stage with such tenacious drive and determination that observers may indeed wonder what sort of political impact the South American giant will have upon the wider region in the coming years. Though the country still faces incredible domestic challenges, the outgoing Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva administration has done much to put Brazil’s house in order and the president leaves office with record 80% popularity. Unlike its volatile and unstable Andean neighbors, Brazil has consolidated a credible democracy and recently concluded the first round of its presidential vote.

The election went smoothly and Brazil now moves to a second round which will take place on the 31st of October. In all likelihood, Lula’s protégé Dilma Rousseff of the Workers’ Party will emerge victorious and continue the president’s successful anti-poverty programs which have helped millions make the transition from poverty to middle class status. As the poor advance socially, it is hoped they will begin to feel that they have a stake in the system and Brazil’s democracy will become more stable and robust as a result.

Iguaçu Falls

Brazilian authorities, however, are concerned that outsiders may ignore such advances and focus instead upon their country’s horrific drug-related crime scene, urban favelas and startling rural injustice. In an effort to burnish Brazil’s image, Lula recently told SECOM, the president’s own Secretariat for Social Communication, to focus laser-like on international public relations. In tandem with Lula’s desires, SECOM has sought to give Brazil a makeover by emphasizing the country’s solid democracy, robust economy, pacifist-oriented diplomacy and environmentally sustainable policies. SECOM directs its efforts at journalists, opinion makers, investors, academics and students while conducting key seminars, trips and interviews.

The Brazilian PR Juggernaut

Much to my surprise, SECOM recently contacted me via the New York public relations firm Fleishman-Hillard, asking if I would like to take part in an all expense paid trip to Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia to witness Brazil’s election and final presidential debate. During the five day trip, I would have the opportunity to speak with political scientists, non-governmental organizations and representatives from the major presidential campaigns. What is more, I would also have access to regulators overseeing the election and organizers would even set up a visit to Brazil’s Upper Electoral Court.

In the midst of the summer doldrums, I jumped at the chance. When I learned, however, that the trip would be partially funded by Centrais Eletricas Brasileiras, also known as Eletrobras, a state-controlled Brazilian utility involved in the hydropower industry, I started to wonder why SECOM would be interested in sponsoring me in particular. In my book, No Rain in the Amazon: How South America’s Climate Change Affects the Entire Planet (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2010), I rip the Brazilian hydropower industry for its environmental record, specifically in regard to methane emissions which exacerbate climate change. In an e-mail, I asked Fleishman whether I would be at liberty to ask whatever questions I saw fit during the trip and to later report on my findings. Of course, Fleishman responded, adding that all comments were considered to be entirely on the record.

The trip, I learned, was to be organized by Apex Brazil, the Brazilian Trade and Investment Promotion Agency. An entity which has done much to marshal Brazil’s vast economic might, Apex represents more than 10,000 companies organized in more than 70 different sectors ranging from agribusiness to housing to entertainment and machinery. The list of Apex-supported products is exhaustive and includes everything from biscuits to coffee, from meat to equipment for the service of Brazil’s ethanol industry and from aircraft parts to yerba maté tea. Headquartered in Brasilia, Apex also maintains branches in Beijing, Dubai, Miami, Havana, Warsaw and Moscow. If that was not enough, the agency plans to open new business support centers in Luanda and Brussels. Buzzing with activity, Apex sports 300 employees working around the clock to enhance their country’s international profile.

I don’t know why, exactly, Eletrobras as well as other sponsors Petrobras, the Brazilian state oil company, and Banco do Brasil would be interested in funding a press junket to South America though perhaps the companies believed they would benefit, in a general kind of way, from media coverage of the election. In a long-term sense, if the election were to go off without a hitch, then this in turn would improve Brazil’s political standing and thereby attract outside investment. Moreover, in advance of the 2016 Olympic Games set for Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is intent upon securing its international reputation.

After reading up on Fleishman-Hillard, I began to understand why I might have been included in this particular press junket. The PR firm, along with its Brazilian public relations partner Companhia de Noticias or CDN, recently won an award for their “Green Diplomacy” campaign highlighting Lula’s global influence on the environmental sustainability issue. Fleishman is really pressing the environmental angle: prior to my departure for Rio the PR firm sent me an e-mail stating that Environment Minister Isabella Teixeira would be in New York and would like to meet with me.

Brazil does not skimp when it comes to PR. Located near the United Nations in Manhattan, Fleishman is no pushover firm. The building itself has a big globe in the front lobby which looked somehow familiar. Then it hit me: this building served as the very set for the 1978 hit film Superman. Indeed, actor Christopher Reeve routinely passed in and out of the building’s revolving door on his way to his reporting job at the Daily Planet. Continuing on, I arrived at the company’s fancy upstairs offices where a company rep provided me with a glossy green booklet showcasing Brazil’s many economic accomplishments.

A Political Spectacle

Later, as I headed to the airport, I marveled at Brazil’s ability to bring foreign correspondents from far corners of the globe to South America. What other Latin American country would be interested in such a task, let alone display the logistical know-how to bring off such a challenging task?

At Laguardia airport, I was subjected to the usual indignities of international travel: as I passed through customs airport officials confiscated my shaving cream, shampoo and suntan lotion. By now in an irritable mood, I continued on to Atlanta but suddenly my spirits rallied. As I boarded my next flight, attendants showed me to my seat: business first class. Reclining in my comfortable chair, I wondered how much my nine hour flight to Rio actually cost. As I sat there reflecting, an attendant approached to offer me a glass of champagne. The VIP treatment continued after we landed in Rio: as the plane sat on the tarmac and passengers waited to disembark, a tour representative boarded the aircraft and whisked me off through the airport.

Clearing customs in record time I was taken to my hotel, located on Copacabana beach no less. Treated to a lavish buffet, I met the other foreign correspondents on my trip. My young hosts from CDN spoke impeccable English, proved to be immensely affable and obliging, and attended to most every need. A dynamic PR firm to be sure, CDN is emblematic of Brazil’s newfound self confidence. The company’s clients include Avon, the Brazilian Olympic Committee, Bayer, Coca Cola, DHL, Eletrobras, aerospace giant Embraer, General Mills, media conglomerate Globo, Brazil’s Ministry of Health, Nestle, state oil company Petrobras, Pfizer, Purina, Sony, UBS and World Wildlife Fund Brazil. Amongst its many successful PR initiatives CDN happily touts its “10 years of Viagra” campaign.

Throughout my stay in Rio, the lavish treatment continued: fancy restaurants, samba dancing by night, bus travel to and from our press interviews and even a short trip to Ipanema beach. Though stimulating, the pace of our trip proved exhausting and so on my first day I sought to overcome my lack of sleep by downing cans of Guaraná, the Brazilian national soft drink, and espresso, known endearingly in Brazil as cafezinho. By now in an accelerated caffeinated state, I joined our entourage as we hopped on the bus for a late night trip to the presidential debate.

The event was held at TV studios belonging to Globo, a huge Brazilian media conglomerate. For those who may doubt Brazil’s pervasive economic and cultural influence, a short trip to Globo will surely change one’s mind. A vast operation, Globo is state of the art and probably rivals CNN’s Atlanta headquarters or even Hollywood’s Universal studios in sheer size. Indeed, the installation is so large that visitors must get around the premises in golf carts.

At the Debate

Before I left for New York, I was a little concerned that I would have difficulty understanding what was said during our media interviews. Though I am more or less fluent in Spanish, I have always found Portuguese challenging. As I discovered, however, there was no need to be anxious: pulling out all the stops, our hosts supplied us with top notch English-Portuguese translators who were constantly on hand. Though we were not allowed into the studio to see the live debate, we received simultaneous translation in a side room while watching the proceedings on a large TV monitor.

The debate did not get on the air until well after 10 PM and was preceded by Passione, a soap opera starring Fernanda Montenegro, a popular actress and star of the internationally acclaimed motion picture Central Station. When the debate finally got underway it quickly became clear that the affair would be a tame and staid event. All candidates, the Globo host intoned, should adhere to educated and non-offensive language. As I watched the debate unfold, I was struck by the candidates’ polite and respectful tone, certainly more reminiscent of the United States than populist Venezuela and Ecuador where politics can be a rough and tumble affair. Trailing in the polls as she went into the final debate, former Minister of the Environment Marina Silva certainly had an incentive to be as aggressive as possible yet for whatever reason the Green Party candidate was remarkably restrained.

Brazilians, who have distasteful memories of the 1964 to 1985 dictatorship, have thrown their support to candidates who opposed the military authorities of that time. Indeed, all presidential contenders standing up on the podium played a role in opposing military rule. Take, for example, Dilma Rousseff of Lula’s Workers’ Party, who was tortured and jailed by the military for her political activism. Then there’s Marina Silva of the Green Party who, in 1984, co-founded an Amazonian labor union with the help of legendary rubber tapper Chico Mendes. Such activism was risky as Brazil’s military leadership had declared labor organizing illegal.

Another candidate up on the podium, Plinio de Arruda Sampaio of the PSOL or Socialism and Freedom Party, went into exile during the dictatorship. From his perch in the United States, he criticized the military regime and later returned to Brazil where he played a role in helping to launch Lula’s Workers’ Party. Even José Serra of the more conservative PSDB or Brazilian Social Democracy Party opposed the dictatorship: as a student organizer, the young man was forced into exile in Bolivia.

Watching the debate late into the evening, I tried to focus but with no memorable fireworks on stage my attention began to drift. To be sure, the candidates sparred over the contours of public policy but there was no talk of dramatically reversing course from Lula’s social programs. What can account for such a muted political culture? Perhaps, I reflected, Brazilian politicians calculated that their countrymen were fatigued by ideological battles of the past and wanted to move past the polarized political environment which prevailed under military rule.

Not too far off, according to Jairo Nicolau, a political scientist at Rio de Janeiro State University who sat down with our entourage to discuss the debate. One of the legacies of military dictatorship was that no one openly declared they were on the right in Brazil though many claimed to be on the left. Moreover, there is political consensus in Brazilian society about the need to address social problems. As a result, Nicolau remarks, disagreements voiced at the presidential debates tend to be relatively minor in nature. To the extent that disagreement is expressed at all, candidates tend to quibble about who is the rightful intellectual author of Lula’s popular social programs.

In this sense, Brazilian democracy is currently far less volatile and polarizing than the United States. Unlike America, which has witnessed the rise of the far right Tea Party, Brazil has no classic “neo-liberal” right on the political spectrum. While Tea Partiers in the U.S. seek to dismantle the state, Brazilian politicians agree that the state should foster industry. In the U.S., the Tea Party shares vast philosophical disagreements with the Obama administration, while Brazil’s major politicians seem far more utilitarian and focus on nuts and bolts problems during the debates.

First Electoral Round

Eager to showcase not only Brazil’s presidential debate but the election itself, my hosts shuttled our entourage from Rio to the capital of Brasilia. A modern and sprawling city which sports imposing government monuments reminiscent of the Washington Mall, Brasilia is also home to the nation’s Upper Electoral Court overseeing the nation’s presidential election.

Once again, I was taken aback by our hosts’ largesse: three star lodging at a local hotel; a musical outing to see a jazz fusion concert and a tour of iconoclastic buildings designed by acclaimed architect Oscar Niemeyer. At one point, our group was taken to a bountiful restaurant where young waiters dressed in colorful cowboy outfits hurtled to and fro. A vegetarian, I was startled by the huge skewers of barbecued meat brought to our table. On another occasion, we had lunch in a banquet hall that must have housed a thousand people. To make life even better, my charming hostess brought me to a local ice cream parlor where I sampled flavors like acaí, soursop, bacuri, a creamy yellow fruit, and castanha de baru, a nut from the surrounding cerrado region.

Proud of their local attractions as well as Brazil’s governing institutions, the organizers brought us to the Upper Electoral Court which was abuzz with cameras and media activity. At the court, we were plied with booklets dealing with Brazil’s electoral system and even supplied with fancy leather briefcases containing a CD-ROM explaining various technicalities pertaining to the vote. As the first presidential round unfolded, our team was given access to ongoing press updates in a central briefing room. This was the sixth Brazilian presidential election held since the return of democratic rule, and the country hopes to close the chapter on its turbulent past at long last.

Judging from what I saw in Brasilia, these hopes are not unfounded. Brazil is a vast country and some polling stations lie in remote areas like the Amazon. Despite this, the authorities were able to tabulate the vote expeditiously. Not only that, but Brazil has made significant technological strides. According to the Economist, the country has the most advanced electronic voting system in the world. The compact machines were introduced not only to simplify voting but also to cut down on corruption and end the practice of stuffing ballot boxes. Brazil is also leading the charge in innovative biometric technology which it uses to identify voters and thereby cut down on impersonation.

Impressive enough to be sure, though it’s difficult to measure people’s overall confidence in the system. In Brazil, voting is mandatory for all except the illiterate and people under the age of 18 and over the age of 70. This makes for quite a bustling Election Day and when I visited one polling station in Brasilia I found it difficult to navigate the vast throngs of crowds. As I observed the election unfold, however, I wondered how many people would show up to vote if Brazil did not have a compulsory system. When I posed the question directly to Carlos Eduardo Caputo Bastos, a former minister of the Upper Electoral Court, I received the following response: “no more than 60% of the electorate” [my italics].

There are other signs that Brazilians may not view the political system with as much enthusiasm as government boosters. During the first round, Brazilians elected a real life television clown named Francisco Oliveira Silva (known as “Tiririca”) to Congress. During his campaign, Silva had mocked the electoral process, thereby tapping into public cynicism. Like the U.S, Brazilian democracy has been perverted by special interests and big business. Political scientist Nicolau of Rio de Janeiro State University says that corporate influence is a major challenge and many scandals are related to the issue of campaign funding. To consolidate democracy, Nicolau says, Brazil should draft a new campaign financing law.

Personally, I also found some particularities of the election to be rather perverse. At one point, during a tour of the Electoral Court, our guide proudly displayed one of the electronic voting machines. Doing a double take, I noticed the Diebold company logo embossed at the bottom of the machine. Why would Brazil turn to Diebold, whose machines have been criticized as unreliable in the United States, for assistance? When I brought the matter up with Ricardo Lewandowski, the President of the Electoral Court, the latter responded that the company had merely provided casing for the machines. “You shouldn’t read anything into that,” he said.

There were yet other oddities: as our team toured the Upper Electoral Court, we heard that Lucio Gutiérrez, a former army colonel and president of Ecuador, was serving as an electoral observer in Brasilia. That got my attention, as Ecuador’s current president Rafael Correa had only days before accused Gutiérrez and his Patriotic Society Party of playing a role in a police rebellion which took on the flavor of an actual coup d’etat. Gutiérrez has not denied that he wants to see Correa out of power but says he seeks to accomplish this through legitimate means and not through force. When I asked Lewandowski why Brazil would allow Gutiérrez’s participation, the official replied that authorities do not discriminate on the basis of ideology or political stripes when selecting observers.

Despite these oddities, one would have to say that, on balance, Brazil has made great strides on the political front. Whatever its problems in consolidating its democratic system, Brazil looks a lot better than other countries in the neighborhood. Indeed, since its return to democracy, Brazil has enjoyed a remarkable period of internal peace and stability, there’s been no terrorism and the army has been quiet with little threat of a coup. That is no small accomplishment in a region which has witnessed guerrilla insurgencies, lawless militaries, and violent social unrest.

Moving beyond the election, what are the chances that Dilma Rousseff can consolidate the Brazilian political-economic system and turn her country into a veritable world player? Though she will face many domestic challenges, Rousseff has significant support from both the business sector and social movements, which in turn bodes well for ongoing political stability. If Serra had won the first round, however, things might have turned out differently: the head of the Landless Peasant Movement, known in Brazil as the MST, warned that in the event of a Serra win Brazil would see the “complete hegemony of agribusiness. It will be the worst of all worlds. There will be more repression and therefore more tension in the countryside.”

To be sure, Brazil faces incredible odds as it seeks to join the more affluent developed nations. A technocrat, Rousseff will continue Lula’s development policies and promote greater infrastructure, the latter sorely needed given the lack of basic sanitation, treated water and efficient public transportation in many areas of the country. For Brazil, consolidating such public works has become a political and economic imperative — there is no way the country can sustain its population growth in light of its grave infrastructure deficiencies.

As if these problems were not enough, Rousseff will also have to address glaring human rights abuses. Even as Brazil seeks to project an image of modernity to the outside world, vigilante justice still remains a fact of life in many areas of the interior. Prisons meanwhile are plagued by torture, overcrowding and violence. Rousseff had better hope that the Brazilian economic boom continues and the poor continue to ascend up the social ladder, as the alternative could be further growth of criminal gangs and drug trafficking in the favelas [a recent report issued by Human Rights Watch, detailing many of these abuses, makes for sobering reading].

A Perverse Foreign Policy

Still, if Rousseff does prove to be a strong leader it is not inconceivable that the government can at least get a grip on some of these grave problems. If that is the case, then it begs the question of what role Brazil might seek on the world stage. Traditionally, Brazilian politicians have not emphasized foreign policy during their campaigns, preferring instead to dwell on domestic concerns. Indeed, as I watched the presidential debate in Rio, I was struck by the utter lack of discussion about foreign affairs.

On the other hand, outgoing President Lula has pushed a much more aggressive foreign policy agenda than his predecessors. While he has maintained friendly ties to the U.S., Lula has also courted the support of leftists Hugo Chávez as well as the Castro brothers in Cuba [for a more detailed discussion of these intricate foreign policy questions, see my previous article here]. Presumably, Rousseff will continue Lula’s orientation which augurs well for regional stability and South American political and economic integration proceeding along progressive lines.

Don’t expect Rousseff to rock the boat, however: when I asked Congressman Eduardo Cardoso of the Rousseff campaign to explain his boss’ position on U.S. bases in Colombia, which represent a provocation for neighboring Venezuela, he replied categorically “there won’t be a change in Lula’s foreign policy. We have an excellent relationship with the U.S. Don’t expect any radical change.” Such a response is perverse, however, if Rousseff seeks to live up to Brazil’s stated goal of pushing a pacifistic foreign policy. Both Colombia and Venezuela lie on Brazil’s natural borders. What better place for Brazil to act as an international arbiter than within its own backyard?

In Brazil, one hears much reverence for the so-called “elite” diplomats at Itamaraty, the nation’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Yet in recent years, these diplomats have pursued a perverse and erratic foreign policy as Lula has sought to establish warm ties with Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. To be sure, Brazil may claim that its shuttle diplomacy was instrumental in averting a major Middle Eastern war between the U.S. and Iran. In a novel move, the Brazilian urged Western countries to drop their threats of punishment over Iran’s nuclear program and negotiate a just solution.

Even more surprisingly, Lula led an effort to head off more United Nations sanctions against the Islamic Republic by helping to negotiate a deal allowing Iran to send parts of its stockpile of enriched uranium abroad for additional processing. Yet Lula has gone much farther than that, proclaiming his “friendship” and “affection” for Ahmadinejad, a man who has denied the Holocaust. What is more, the Brazilian president has held discussions with Iran on how the two countries might boost trade and collaborate in key areas such as biotechnology and agriculture. More significantly perhaps, Ahmadinejad hopes to extend cooperation on nuclear technology so as to generate electricity. In the final analysis, however, Lula gained little from such controversial maneuvers save suspicion from Washington and animosity from human rights campaigners who decry Iran’s practice of stoning women to death for adultery.

It is difficult to imagine how Rousseff, herself a woman, could in good conscience continue Lula’s policy toward Iran. A more sensible way for Brazil to challenge the U.S. would be for the South American giant to play an assertive role in Latin American affairs, for example in Colombia and Venezuela and even elsewhere. Rousseff would be foolish not to take advantage of Brazil’s greatest asset on the world stage: Lula himself. Provided she is not afraid of being overshadowed politically, Rousseff could send her former boss abroad to negotiate thorny international problems, much as recent U.S. presidents have called on Bill Clinton to act as an international envoy. Perhaps, Lula could be an effective intermediary between the United States and Cuba, or the Brazilian could work to achieve greater democratic freedoms in Central America for instance.

Creating a Brazilian “Brand”

Lula could certainly be an effective good will ambassador, enhancing Brazil’s international profile. Yet, from the perspective of public relations and branding, a Rousseff administration should do much more than simply export Brazil’s stable political-economic model while advocating international peace. Fundamentally, Brazil needs a makeover and a cause that will electrify the imagination. Judging from the result of the first presidential round, one issue that could set Brazil apart is the environment.

Exceeding most everyone’s expectations, Marina Silva garnered 19% of the vote. Perhaps, one might expect such a performance in certain European countries but in Latin America such a tally is unheard of. The result suggests that many Brazilians may want something more for their country than simple market-friendly policies and carte blanche support for Brazilian agribusiness and the corporate sector. Silva has done particularly well with intellectuals, academics and bohemian types. Yet she also picked up support with women and Brazil’s new urban middle class, the latter comprising approximately 36% of the electorate.

In this sense, what happened in Brazil echoes the recent political earthquake which shook Colombia. Just a few months ago, >a href=>Antanas Mockus of the Colombian Green Party received more than 27% of the vote in his own nation’s presidential election. Like Silva, Mockus drew much of his support from the urban middle class. Though he lost against his conservative challenger, Mockus’ performance demonstrates that environmental politics is picking up steam in Latin America. If Mockus and Silva can broaden their base of support beyond the cities, then green politics could take off even more. In the long run, perhaps green parties may breathe fresh air into the region’s leftist Pink Tide which is surely in need of renovation and new ideas.

Though Rousseff’s eventual victory will cheer Brazil’s social movements and probably provide a sense of relief in Caracas, La Paz and Quito, her assumption to power may have negative consequences for the environment. Rousseff formerly served as Chairwoman of the Board of Directors at Petrobras, Brazil’s state oil company, and also worked as Lula’s Minister of Energy. Yet, perhaps in the wake of the first round of the presidential election, the Workers’ Party candidate will come to her senses and recognize the central importance of environmental politics.

If she is wise, she will try to court Silva and Brazil’s new green constituency in the run up to the next round and even beyond. Fundamentally, the Workers’ Party candidate should improve upon Lula’s very mixed environmental record. While the outgoing president has put forth some positive environmental initiatives, he has caved in far too often to the cattle industry, agribusiness and sugarcane ethanol which together exert pressure on the Amazon. Indeed, it was Lula’s own corporate bent which led Marina Silva to quit her job as Environment Minister and join the Green Party in the first place. Brazil’s booming PR sector, including CDN, SECOM and Fleishman are working overtime to build up the South American nation’s green image, yet such efforts have been severely undermined by Lula himself.

Take, for instance, the president’s handling of the Belo Monte hydro electric dam affair. A dangerous boondoggle, the project stands to flood indigenous areas in the Amazon and increase methane emissions. To his credit, Hollywood director James Cameron traveled personally to the Amazon, took up the cause of indigenous peoples fighting Belo Monte, and wrote personally to Lula, urging the president to block the project. In a sense, Belo Monte was Lula’s teachable “Gulf of Mexico moment.” Like Obama, who might have taken advantage of the BP oil disaster to advance an ambitious environmental agenda, so too did Lula have a historic opportunity to change course over Belo Monte. Lula might have said, “in light of severe environmental concerns over hydro power, I am going to support a moratorium on further dam construction and have Brazil pursue other, alternative energy strategies.”

While such a strategy would have surely upset influential lobbies in Brazil including the hydropower industry, agribusiness and construction, Lula might have recruited powerful international allies by taking such a courageous stand. What’s more, if Lula had met personally with Cameron, Hollywood’s highest grossing director, the Brazilian leader might have raised his environmental profile. It is easy to imagine how other celebrities and singers would have followed Cameron’s lead, eagerly flying to Brazil to meet with the president. Moreover, by opposing Belo Monte, Lula would have been in a more advantageous moral position to make demands of the Global North. “Brazil has done its part in the Amazon, now it is time for the developed countries to speed up clean energy transfer,” Lula might have said.

Unfortunately Lula took no such action, preferring instead to back Belo Monte. In a reference perhaps to Cameron, Lula declared that Brazil did not need advice from pesky foreigners. “No one is more worried about protecting Amazônia and the Indians than we are,” he said. When I met Brazilian Environment Minister Isabella Teixeira at Fleishman’s midtown Manhattan offices, I asked her whether Lula had read Cameron’s letter. Turning the tables, Teixeira declared that the director should spend more time pressuring the United States to observe the Kyoto Protocol.

Lula and his team have done much to advance Brazil socially, economically and politically and for this they deserve some credit. Yet, ask most anyone what Brazil stands for internationally and they are bound to shrug their shoulders. Perhaps, in the wake of the recent election, the post-Lula generation will seek to make Brazil a world class leader on the environment. You never know: as a motto and branding strategy “Rainforest Republic” might catch on internationally.

Nikolas Kozloff is the author of No Rain in the Amazon: How South America’s Climate Change Affects the Entire Planet (Palgrave, 2010) and Revolution! South America and the Rise of the New Left (Palgrave, 2008). Visit his website,