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Clinton's Challenge in Brazil

Interviewee: Julia E. Sweig, Nelson and David Rockefeller Senior Fellow for Latin America Studies and Director for Latin America Studies
Interviewer: Robert McMahon, Editor, CFR.org
March 1, 2010

A key goal for U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's first visit to South America on March 1-5 is to gain Brazil's support for tougher UN sanctions against Iran to curb its nuclear program. But Brazil, which holds a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council, is unlikely to participate in any new push to toughen sanctions on Iran, says Julia E. Sweig, CFR's director for Latin America Studies. "Brazil sees sanctions in the wake of Iraq as the slippery slope toward the use of military force," says Sweig. "Moreover, Brazil sees its own experience in moving toward democracy and in moving toward a peaceful civilian nuclear program as a potential model that Iran could follow."

Brazil's president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, hosted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last year and is expected to visit Iran this spring. Sweig says despite concerns that Brazil is foiling U.S. plans to isolate Iran, Brazil may be able to play a role in dealing with the Iranian regime. "The Brazilians do have a channel with Iran, and they do have people on the ground there and a level of discussion which might give them some window into the internal political upheaval that's taking place," she says. "So I would say rather than fully dismiss this as a spoiler, wait and see whether the Brazilians actually have something to deliver in terms of modifying Iranian behavior."

Clinton's trip includes an early visit to earthquake-stricken Chile, where she will convey U.S. solidarity and support to one of the region's most stable countries but one that is also undergoing a presidential transition. Her trip will conclude with meetings with regional leaders in Costa Rica and Guatemala. The meetings follow a recent summit that initiated a new regional group that excludes the United States and Canada. The new grouping is intended to bring the region's leaders together to deal with political and economic issues, which Sweig says can be a positive development. But she adds that regional leaders, in "excluding the United States and Canada, may be shooting themselves in the foot in terms of resources that those two countries have to bear."

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