Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff arrived in New York on Sunday. On Monday, she will speak at an infrastructure seminar. She will also meet with Obama and then go to San Francisco to meet with University of California President Janet Napolitano and maybe visit Google or NASA’s facility at Moffet Field in Menlo Park.
Her delegation is fairly standard in size. What’s noteworthy is who is missing. Absent, as far as I know are:
-Aloisio Mercadante, Dilma’s Chief of Staff (Casa Civil) who has to prepare a defense against allegations related to the car wash scandal.
-Marco Aurelio Garcia, Lula’s “gray” foreign eminence who has held the same post with perhaps less success under Dilma, and Roberto Mangabeira Unger, a Harvard law professor who claims that Obama was an OK student but denied his support for him in 2012 as the President had moved too far right. Unger is supposed to be reimagining Brazil’s role in the world.
Among the 80 or so members of the delegation are Joaquin Levy, the primus inter pares, as Finance Minister. Although it is reported that he has a lung blood clot he traveled anyhow. Dilma requires his presence to hopefully placate the business community anxious to hear about Brazil’s plans for controlling spending and inflation while at the same time creating an atmosphere conducive to investment and growth.
Levy’s presence, along with Armando Monteiro of Industry and Commerce, Katia Abreu of Agriculture and Planning Minister Nelson Barbosa. All are suited to softening the left-wing ideological conceits that characterize the PTistas of Lula’s ilk. The delegation’s makeup shows that Dilma is trying to be pragmatic and open to pushing for greater economic ties and opportunities with the US thus giving tacit recognition to the reorientation of Brazil’s foreign policy away from the South-South drive that started with Lula.
It is especially interesting to see a hastily arranged seminar on infrastructure. This may reflect Brazil’s concern that its major construction companies, tainted by the Petrobras scandal, may no longer be in a position to achieve the ambitious and much promised goals in building airports, seaports, roads, railroads, logistics and related services. It also reflects Brazil’s desire to attract foreign capital because of a lack domestic investment capital.
Since the military dictatorship (1964-1985), Brazilian companies have muscled just about all US construction companies out of the market. Fluor, Bechtel, Morrison Knudsen and many others have either closed down or reduced their presence. Now, paradoxically, Brazil is hosting a seminar with the objective of promoting US investment in a field where foreign companies play only limited roles.
In Washington, both Obama and Dilma say that they have put the NSA spying scandal behind. It remains to be seen how this will pan out from the perspective of the press. It is certain that Obama will touch on the Pope’s recent encyclical on climate change and Dilma will lamely respond that, yes, Brazil is making progress in slowing the devastation of the Amazon rain forest. It is questionable how much slowing is actually taking place and if the recession in Brazil is contributing more than policy measures implemented and enforced by the government.
While Dilma is with Obama, it is likely that BNDES president, Luciano Coutinho, will be giving advice to the World Bank and Levy may meet with assistants to IMF chief Christine LaGarde (as she is off in Europe dealing with the Greek default) or Wall Street bankers seeking reassurance.
As for California, Dilma’s visit to the San Francisco Bay Area is interesting and somewhat nebulous. Apparently, it was suggested that she visit Google in Menlo Park but she also has a lunch scheduled with UC President Janet Napolitanto. Napolitano used to head the Department of Homeland Security. Will they avoid touching on national security and spying? Perhaps Education Minister Renato Janine will be at the meeting and then it could be productive if there are any substantive proposals for developing and enhancing an already important interchange between the Brazilian federal universities and the UC system.
If Dilma doesn’t visit Google, she may at least meet with personnel from Brazil’s investment agency APEX in San Francisco. The head of APEX, David Barioni Neto, has tasked local staff to seek venture capital for Brazilian IT startups and certainly there has been some minor success with that. It’s not necessarily presidential but at least it’s something.
Dilma had suggested going for a bike ride in New York. But it looks as if Itamaraty (Brazil’s Foreign Ministry) feared protests. Maybe she can do so in San Francisco, although the city;s hills are as steep as the challenges she faces at home.