UNDERSTANDING BRAZIL’S FOREIGN MINISTRY, PART 3: INTER-AGENCY COMPETITION

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09BRASILIA190 13 February 2009 Confidencial Embassy Brasilia

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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BRASILIA 000190

SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/13/2019
TAGS: PREL, PGOV, ECON, BR
SUBJECT: UNDERSTANDING BRAZIL’S FOREIGN MINISTRY, PART 3:
INTER-AGENCY COMPETITION

REF: A. BRASILIA 0180
B. BRASILIA 0177
C. 2008 STATE 115233

Classified By: Ambassador Clifford M. Sobel, Reason 1.4 (b) and (d)

1. (C) As Brazil takes an increasingly prominent place on the
international stage, its Foreign Ministry, known widely as
Itamaraty after its headquarters building, finds itself
facing unaccustomed inter-agency competition. Still
Brazil’s most prestigious ministry and the unquestioned lead
on foreign affairs matters, Itamaraty is nonetheless
experiencing some erosion of its control over foreign policy
decisions. This is likely to continue as Brazil’s
involvement with more countries across a broader range of
issues continues to expand. For now, though, Itamaraty
continues to exercise considerable control over almost all
elements of the U.S.-Brazil relationship, aided by legal
authority, a poorly developed inter-agency process, and
insufficient preparation in many other ministries. As noted
ref A, advancing U.S. interests in Brazil will require
broadening our relationship with Brazilian government
institutions and non-governmental players. As we do so,
successful strategies will also take into account Itamaraty’s
influence, interests, and likely reactions, and will map out
when and in what way to engage this still-dominant foreign
policy player.

2. (C) This is the third and final cable in a series on
Itamaraty. Along with the inter-agency dynamics described
here, the foreign policy ideology put in place by Lula and
his three principal foreign policy advisors (ref A),
Itamaraty’s institutional difficulties as it seeks to meet
Brazil’s global aspirations (reftel B), and a large new
cohort of more pragmatic and globally oriented diplomats will
make it challenging to work with Itamaraty in the short term,
but also offer new opportunities to influence this key
foreign policy player. End summary.

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Control Issues
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3. (C) Itamaraty has long been the pre-eminent GOB agency on
almost all international relations matters (with the
exception of some international financial issues), guarding
its prerogatives through both policy and bureaucratic
instruments. Itamaraty provides international affairs
advisors to most of the principal GOB executive branch
agencies including the presidency, to congress, to the
Supreme Court and other elements of the judiciary, to former
presidents, and to larger state and municipal governments.
These senior advisors generally have direct access to the
minister or other senior leadership, and it is rare for
foreign diplomats to attend a high-level meeting without
having an Itamaraty representative present. Many ministries,
particularly those with less experience working international
issues, practice self-censorship, often refusing to engage
their counterparts in other governments without a green light
from Itamaraty. The Labor Ministry, for example, which does
not have an Itamaraty advisor, almost always insists on
having Itamaraty involved in anything more than an
informational meeting with foreign government
representatives. Officials at the Racial Integration
Secretariat (SEPPIR), whose minister signed and has the lead
on our bilateral action plan on racial discrimination, almost
always ask Itamaraty to join our meetings, and often defer in
our discussions to more junior MRE colleagues.

4. (C) Itamaraty intends and uses these advisors to monitor
and control other agency contacts with foreign governments,

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but their presence is not necessarily detrimental to U.S.
interests. While most are zealous to ensure Itamaraty
control and a few are actually obstructionist, others have
been helpful in moving a bureaucracy not used to working
international issues or in achieving Foreign Ministry
cooperation or approval for our initiatives. This has been
the case, for example, with regard to Brazilian participation
in the OECD. Although Secretary General (Deputy FM) Samuel
Pinheiro Guimaraes, Presidential Foreign Policy Advisor Marco
Aurelio Garcia, and others who see Brazil as champion of the
South against the North are preventing serious consideration
of Brazilian membership, the Finance Ministry (Fazenda) has
been successfully pushing the envelope by pressing for a red
light/green light exercise to expand Brazil’s participation
in OECD committees. This is due in no small part to the
engagement of diplomats seconded from the Foreign Ministry to
Fazenda.

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A Losing Battle, But Far from Lost
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5. (C) Such inter-agency cooperation is not the norm,
however, and Itamaraty officials generally resent the
challenge to their prerogatives. A full-page series of
articles in Brazil’s premier daily on January 19, 2009
proclaimed the Foreign Ministry’s "irritation" with "informal
chancellors" (Estado de Sao Paulo, p. A4, "Chanceleres
Informais de Lula Irritam o Itamaraty"). Among the offenders
cited were presidential foreign policy advisor Marco Aurelio
Garcia, Strategic Planning Minister Roberto Mangabeira Unger,
Defense Minister Nelson Jobim, and Environment Minister
Carlos Minc. The stories, which appear to have been
generated by complaints from within Itamaraty, are almost
entirely critical of these non-MRE foreign policy players and
take a familiar tack: "At Itamaraty, not even the recent
arrivals from the Rio Branco Institute (Brazil’s FSI) doubt
that the more channels of communication that Brazil has with
foreign countries, the greater the risk of confusion in the
implementation of foreign policy." The line recalls one U/S
for Political Affairs Everton Vargas has used with several
USG officials: "It is best to work all issues directly with
Itamaraty, rather than through others. Things will always
work better if you come to Itamaraty first."

6. (C) Because the Foreign Ministry is the recognized and
legally empowered GOB lead on international issues and must
approve international agreements before they can be sent to
the Presidency, ignoring Itamaraty is almost never an option,
and MRE agreement can be crucial to the success of bilateral
initiatives. On the up side, Foreign Ministry buy-in can
move resistant or less qualified bureaucracies; Itamaraty has
actively worked to achieve progress on bilateral tax talks,
for example, and has carefully sought to shepherd a less
organized SEPPIR to move forward on the Joint Action Plan
Against Racial Discrimination. On the other hand, even when a
ministry is willing to work with foreign counterparts, it is
not uncommon for initiatives to be blocked by opposition from
Itamaraty. As a result, even those ministries that more
habitually work international issues, including the Industry
and Commerce Ministry (MDIC), the Planning Ministry, Defense,
and Fazenda, are careful to ensure Itamaraty’s concurrence
when working bilateral or regional issues. Other ministries
regularly emphasize to us the importance of working Itamaraty
to achieve success and are frequently partners in advising
how best to engage Itamaraty on a particular issue.

7. (C) For example, even under the leadership of its first
activist minister in the Defense Ministry’s nine-year
history, MOD has made clear that it must pick its battles.
Consequently, it has been reluctant to pursue a number of

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possible avenues of cooperation because they would require
sign-off by Itamaraty. In a bureaucratic tug of war soon
after Defense Minister Nelson Jobim took up his post,
Itamaraty succeeded in getting Lula to delay Jobim’s first
trip to Washington and then sought—unsuccessfully—to limit
his schedule. The MOD has been unwilling to press for
completion of a bilateral Defence Cooperation Agreement
(although agreements with Russia, Israel, and Venezuela have
moved forward) or the renewal of the Military Liaison
Office’s terms of reference. Both sit in the office of the
anti-American MRE Secretary General (deputy FM) Samuel
Pinheiro Guimaraes, without any sign of movement. Likewise,
U.S. law enforcement agencies often find Itamaraty
questioning their cooperation with Brazilian counterparts—in
January, Itamaraty almost succeeded in preventing the move of
DEA personnel from Bolivia to Brazil even though the Federal
Police, the Justice Ministry, and even the Bolivian
government strongly supported the move (see septel).

8. (C) Nonetheless, under Lula, foreign policy decisionmaking
has unquestionably become more dispersed at the senior
levels, drawing in more ministries than ever before, which
are in turn establishing even broader relationships with
their counterparts abroad. In addition, it is becoming
increasingly clear that globalization and Brazil’s expanding
interests are quickly outstripping Itamaraty’s ability to
manage, provide oversight, and maintain bureaucratic control
over GOB contacts with foreign counterparts. Despite his
battles, Defense Minister Jobim continues to confound
Itamaraty by winning bureaucratic battles to pursue his own
international agenda with Lula’s blessing. Justice Minister
Tarso Genro has likewise been able to overcome Itamaraty
opposition to work productively with the USG. As we have
engaged Brazil in such areas as science and technology,
education, homeland security, and environment, we have also
seen evidence that Itamaraty struggles to keep up with
activist ministers.

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Comment: A Force to Be Reckoned With
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9. (C) As noted Ref A, forward movement on many initiatives
the USG seeks to pursue with Brazil will only be possible by
working early on with Brazilian players in addition to
Itamaraty, including the private sector and other
non-governmental actors, or by engaging via counterpart
agencies. It is not in our interest for Itamaraty to be the
sole filter for working with the GOB. We have repeatedly
seen the power of multi-player cooperation, and believe that
it is fundamental to building a broad-based, long-term
partnership with Brazil. At the same time, Itamaraty’s
effort to maintain dominance over bilateral relations is one
more element, along with ideological forces and institutional
challenges, that will make the GOB a frustrating partner to
engage on many initiatives. As a general rule Itamaraty is
less enthusiastic than action ministries about partnerships
with the United States—particularly within South America,
and more so on non-economic matters—and it maintains a
significant ability to put a stop to foreign policy
initiatives that it does not wish to see proceed. Whether we
determine that it’s best to ask the Foreign Ministry’s
forgiveness or permission, successful strategies will take
into account Itamaraty’s interests and likely reactions, and
will map out when and in what way to engage this dominant
foreign policy player.
SOBEL