Celso Amorim, the current Brazilian defense minister who served as foreign minister during the eight years of the Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva government, brought innovative policies to each of the areas under his management. Now, his challenge is to bring in a national and regional security policy that's consistent with the ideal of South American integration. Amorim, who won the Bravo Award in 2010 in the category of "Innovative Leader of the Year," spoke to Latin Trade about the challenges that lie ahead.
Latin Trade was launched 20 years ago. How do you see the regional political panorama of that time when you look back today?
Twenty years ago the trend toward democracy was just getting underway. Local economies were facing monetary instability, and the rich were feeling vulnerable. Mercosur was taking its first steps and was being looked upon with skepticism. It has faced its problems and freed itself from the threat of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), and now has just gained an important new partner: Venezuela.
Why do you think the much-criticized incorporation of Venezuela into Mercosur is important?
In addition to providing opportunities for trade, the arrival of this new partner reduces asymmetries. Before, there were two large economies, Brazil and Argentina, and two small ones, Paraguay and Uruguay. Now there is a middleweight in the balance, and this will bring more equilibrium to the bloc, strengthening continental integration.
What were your work guidelines when you were foreign ministers?
The priority was to strengthen Mercosur, and efforts towards achieving integration; south-south relations, including Africa; and the search for new markets and partners in the international arena, with a view toward a more benign multi-polarity. Within the regional plan, we achieved extraordinary results that benefitted all countries, culminating with the creation of the Union of South American Nations (Unasur). I think this success came about mainly as a result of the maturing of an idea: that integration must focus on South America and not on Latin America.
This hasn't affected the concept of Latin American unity?
We limited the process to the geography of what was possible, and this was imposed by reality. This doesn't mean relations with Central America and the Caribbean no longer were important. They still are, but we must recognize that the economies of the Caribbean and Mexico are subject to a huge...