Mexico and Brazil have a long-simmering rivalry, each aspiring to lead Latin America. Now, as two strong-willed outsiders take office as president in each country, tensions that have been more or less innocuous could escalate, with negative consequences for the entire region.
Consider the passive-aggressive diplomatic game Mexico and Brazil have often played. In global forums, each rarely votes in favor of the other: Brazil endorsed France’s Christine Lagarde over Mexico’s Agustin Carstens for the International Monetary Fund; Brazil’s Roberto Azevedo bested Mexico’s Herminio Blanco in a tight race for the top job at the World Trade Organization. Mexico routinely balks at Brazil’s ambition for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. Economically, each touts its economic path as superior: Mexico favoring a trade-heavy, U.S.-dependent, manufacturing-driven model; Brazil following a more commercially closed and state-led approach. The veiled sniping bursts out in the open on the soccer field, adding a nationalist spin to every shot on goal in the contests between the two national teams.