Latin America
Brazil’s Journey to Superpower Status

Brazil, located in the center of the world, occupies about 50% of South America’s territory and covers 8.5 million square kilometers in four time zones. With about 217 million inhabitants, Brazil is the largest nation in Latin America by area and population.

While some may classify Brazil as one of the most powerful countries in the world, in reality, Brazilian power has always been weaker than American power. Brazil has never been anything more than a regional power, often only formal due to the influence of “Uncle Sam” and the Monroe Doctrine.

Despite its grandiose potential and modest results, Brazil has always been classified as a country of the future. The country’s huge territory and population, potent economy (tenth largest in the world), abundant natural resources, democratic political system, and developed national identity indicate that Brazil has the potential to become a superpower in the 21st century. The country’s history, including the influence of “Uncle Sam” and the Monroe Doctrine, has made it a potential country for the future.

Brazil’s history dates back to the colonial era, with its identity rooted in its vast territory, ethnic and racial diversity, and the unique Portuguese language. The Portuguese did not allow the establishment of universities or press in Brazil, and the presence of African slaves and European immigrants contributed to the language’s uniqueness.

Brazil’s modern history began in 1808 when the Portuguese royal family moved their entire court to Brazil to escape Napoleon’s invasion and preserve the Portuguese Empire. In 1815, Brazil received the status of a kingdom within Portugal, and independence was declared seven years later when Prince Dom Pedro refused to return to Portugal.

Modern Brazil emerged in the 19th century, with a monarchy providing stability and a parliamentary republic established in 1889. Brazil abolished slavery in 1888, attracting millions of immigrants from Europe and Asia to develop the economy and create a new life.

In the 21st century, Brazil is one of the most multicultural and ethnically diverse countries in the world. Although it did not participate in the First World War, it was a founder of the League of Nations, which it withdrew in 1929. Brazil joined the Allied coalition during World War II and was the only South American nation to send troops to fight on the European continent.

Brazil has been a long-standing ally of the West, with its government advocating for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. This has led to a coalition with Germany, India, and Japan, who are demanding reforms to gain more influence in crisis resolution. Brazil’s Cold War history saw it firmly on the side of the West, with a protectionist nationalist policy leading to inflation and currency crises. In 1964, a military coup with CIA support resulted in an authoritarian regime until 1985.

The Brazilian constitution established a presidential political system in 1988, with the country being a federation of states. The president is elected for a four-year term, with the possibility of re-election after a break of mandates. Voting is mandatory for literate persons aged 18 to 70, and optional for illiterate persons and those aged 16 to 18.

Brazil has often resisted American imperialism, but never to the end. After financial problems at the end of the 20th century, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva came to power in 2003, advocating stronger “South-South” cooperation with other Latin American nations and opposing American neoliberal policies. The authorities created strong economic growth, an export economy, and reduced extreme poverty. Social programs like Bolsa Familia Brasília and Fome Zero have included poor communities in society. The government also negotiated trade agreements with non-democratic states, despite the disapproval of the USA and the European Union.

Brazil has become a strong emerging market and contributor to global growth, becoming a founding member of Mercosur, G20, and BRICS. The country represents the global south and its potentials, which have been hindered by European imperialism and American neocolonialism throughout history. Major sports events like the 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics were rewarded for Brazil’s political, economic, and environmental progress.

However, Brazil experienced stagnation economically and socially under Dilma Rousseff from 2011 to 2016, leading to a loss of fiscal discipline, lack of economic progress, layoffs, recession, and general discontent. Corruption scandals involving top officials of Brazil’s economic and political elite led to her impeachment in parliament in 2016 and nearly happened to her successor, Michel Temer.

The nation is deeply divided between left and right, with former president Lula da Silva being behind bars, demonstrating corruption as a political weapon. In 2019, Jair Bolsonaro replaced Temer as president, implementing pro-Western policies and nationalist policies that sought to make Brazil powerful.

Lula da Silva returned to power in 2023 after being acquitted of all corruption charges, allowing Brazil to return to multipolarity and build its own status in the international community. Brazil aims to be the main representative of Latin America and the Global South by gathering Latin American countries into political and economic blocs independent of the USA. The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), and the Southern Common Market (Mercosur) are alternatives to the USA-dominated Organization of American States.

BRICS, which advances every year, brings de-dollarization, trade in national currencies, and expansion, which is strongly in favor of Brazil, as seen in its strong relations with China and other members. Brazil’s nominal GDP in 2022 was 1.89 trillion USD, ranking 10th globally. The GDP per capita was $8,831, with a 2.9% growth after the corona crisis. The country’s economy is divided into services (62.9%), industry (17.6%), and agriculture (5.9%). The most important agricultural products include coffee, soy, wheat, sugar cane, cotton, cocoa. Industrial sectors include chemical, aerospace and automotive industry, iron ore, engineering and transport equipment, textiles, and timber.

The labor force is around 108 million workers, with a 9.4% unemployment rate in 2022, 72% public debt, and an inflation rate of 9.2%. Brazilians exported goods and services worth USD 308.8 billion in 2022, while imports were worth USD 250.8 billion. The main export partners were China (31.3%), the USA (11%), Argentina (4.2%), the Netherlands (3.3%), Chile (2.5%), and China (21.7%).

Despite its resources, Brazil is one of the most socially unequal countries in the world, with the richest 10% owning up to 50% of the national income and 8.5% living below the poverty line. The country has rich deposits of strategic minerals and precious stones, and is self-sufficient in oil and hydropower. It also has a tenth of the world’s fresh water reserves and the largest preserved rainforest, the Amazon, which offers great biodiversity.

Brazil’s resources make it likely to acquire a dominant role in international relations, particularly in environmental issues. Additionally, Brazil’s soft power, such as carnival, samba, coffee, football, and favelas, has been used to spread its influence. However, Brazil’s biggest shortcoming in the past was the absence of military power.

Brazil, ranked 12th in the world by Global FirePower, is the second strongest military force in the Americas after the US. It has developed its own military-industrial complex, producing sophisticated military equipment and weapons. Brazil is among the top five countries in terms of military service, air fleet strength, airports, and major seaports. However, Brazil’s shortcoming is insufficient attention to security, particularly against organized crime. A stronger military force can lead to stronger Brazilian foreign policy.

The idea of Brazil becoming a superpower has been considered since the 19th century, with Brazilian politicians, diplomats, and generals considering such aspirations as early as the 19th century. With a lot of work and reforms, Brazil can become a driver of development for developing countries in the Global South. Brazil’s democratic state, political, media, and other freedoms make it an attractive candidate for becoming a superpower.

Brazil has better predispositions to build a fair international order than other great powers involved in war conflicts. The statue of Christ the Redeemer above Rio de Janeiro serves as a reminder that Brazil is the most populous Roman Catholic country in the world. By adhering to the national motto “Order and Progress,” Brazil can become a country of progress with less corruption, crime, and poverty. The 21st century should be Brazilian, driven by the commitment to Christian moral and ethical standards.

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