03:37 GMT +311 December 2019
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    Brazilian Brush Off: Bolsonaro Cancels Meeting With French FM For Haircut

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    A meeting between French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro was to take place on 29 July. However, the latter cancelled the meeting because of … a haircut. Did he thereby hurt the prestige of French diplomacy?

    On 29 July, a video was posted on Jair Bolsonaro’s Facebook account showing the Brazilian President talking while having his hair done. A few minutes earlier, the Brazilian government had announced the cancellation of the scheduled meeting with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, due to “reasons related to the President’s work agenda”.

    Although Emmanuel Macron and Jair Bolsonaro don’t hide their disagreements, especially on environmental issues, bilateral relations between the two countries remain important, with Brazil being France’s largest trading partner in Latin America.

    Sputnik has discussed the issue with Christophe Ventura, an expert on Latin America and a leading research fellow at the Institute for International and Strategic Relations. He believes that to a certain extent, the Brazilian president made it clear that he didn’t like the pro-environment position of the French authorities.

    Sputnik: How do you explain this diplomatic imbroglio between Brazil and France?

    Christophe Ventura: It was indeed a stage to manifest Jair Bolsonaro’s bitterness vis-à-vis the French government. He had already made some unflattering comments about Minister Le Drian. What’s this about? It’s about the EU-Mercosur agreement; and then, more broadly, it’s about the controversial environmental issue. Mr Bolsonaro wasn’t happy with Le Drian going on his South American tour to promote the Paris Agreement and the commitments of the signatory countries, including Brazil. He believes this visit to be a form of pressure on South America by France.

    Secondly, Bolsonaro may not have appreciated that the French minister wanted to meet with Vice President General Hamilton Mourão, who is the president’s ally but has complicated relations with Bolsonaro.

    Presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro grimaces right after being stabbed in the stomach during a campaign rally in Juiz de Fora, Brazil, Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018
    © AP Photo / Raysa Leite
    Presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro grimaces right after being stabbed in the stomach during a campaign rally in Juiz de Fora, Brazil, Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018

    The Brazilian president wanted to get back at Emmanuel Macron. In May, the French president received the leader of the Indians, Cayapo Raoni, the defender of the Amazon and, accordingly, Jair Bolsonaro’s political opponent. As a matter of fact, this is all that the Brazilian president wanted; and he decided to do this by humiliating Jean-Yves Le Drian.

    Sputnik: Shortly before the incident, the Brazilian president had set the tone: “the submission of the former presidents to the Old world no longer exists”. Does that mean that Jair Bolsonaro has become anti-imperialist?

    Christophe Ventura: Mr Bolsonaro has fun making statements that won’t have any consequences. Bolsonaro’s views don’t have any anti-imperialist nature; on the contrary. Mr Bolsonaro ran an election campaign praising one of his idols, Donald Trump. As soon as he got elected, he rushed to Washington to reaffirm the realignment of Brazilian diplomacy with Washington. We have seen more anti-imperialists than that in Latin America in recent years.

    I think that Bolsonaro is trying to flatter a certain anti-European feeling – those Europeans who always lecture – in a country that sees Europe as a region of excellence, which has greatly influenced the local elites, their culture etc. For his part, it’s a provocation. In reality, it is a cheap formula that shows the realignment of Brazil with Washington’s interests.

    Sputnik: Is there any contradiction between the signing of the EU-Mercosur free trade agreement and the fact that these same parties have signed the Paris Climate Accord?

    Christophe Ventura: It depends on what level we are. Yes, it is paradoxical because it doesn’t take long to understand what has been organised and stimulated by the free trade agreement between Mercosur and the European Union – it’s a whole bunch of economic and trade issues that aggravate problems and lead to climate change, while the Paris Agreement has been signed to combat that. From this point of view, yes, the free trade agreement itself is a contradiction to the initiative to fight climate change. The agreement is based on the free trade principle; it therefore stimulates the flow of goods, which, in turn, increases CO2 emissions, etc.

    At the same time, it is not so paradoxical if you study the text of the Paris Agreement itself. You should remember that the agreement doesn’t provide for any restrictive measures; it’s not binding for the signatories to the agreement. Only states that are concerned about the issue can take coercive measures. They recognise a goal, the fact that we must avoid exceeding 1.5 degrees, but each country is free and sovereign to do what it wants in environmental matters. On the other hand, the Mercosur-European Union agreement mirrors the climate issue. Yet the text says that the agreement isn’t binding. Any country can review its positions. It doesn’t provide for any type of trade sanctions for countries that don’t comply with the Paris Agreement. So in both cases it’s like Swiss cheese with big holes in the middle.

    The views expressed in this article are solely those of Christophe Ventura and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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