Latin Americans have a long record of directing their often tempestuous nationalism at one prime target: the United States. But with Washington increasingly entangled in more volatile latitudes, regional battle lines are being redrawn. These days, the imperialistas speak Portuguese. Yes, Brazil, the onetime continental underachiever and now Latin America's economic pacesetter, is increasingly becoming target No. 1.
The loudest anti-Brazilian rumblings have come from the Andes, where populist leaders marching to the drumroll of Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chávez's "Bolivarian revolution" are trying to remake their nations by redistributing wealth and empowering long-neglected indigenous groups and minorities. Over the past two years, the leaders of Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia have hurled invective at their dominant neighbor, and lately the mood is getting ugly. In September, a power outage at an Ecuadoran hydroelectric plant built by Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht blew up into an international incident when Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa ordered the army to circle all four Odebrecht projects, froze the company's assets and insinuated he might stop payment on a $243 million loan from Brazil's national development bank. Despite high-level negotiations with Brazil, Correa finally kicked Odebrecht out of the country last month, charging the Brazilians with "disrespecting national sovereignty." Correa is also threatening to oust other Brazilian firms, including the state-owned oil giant Petrobras.