There is no single relationship between Portugal and Brazil. There are several types of links, with various types of density, driven by various types of agents, often in divergent ways.
Two diseases may have been observed in Portugal in the recent weeks. The Hyperempathy Syndrome would explain why the Portuguese followed the election in Brazil as if they were voters. They walked cautiously through Chiado as if they felt the risk of being hit by a stray bullet from the Maré slum. The victory of Jair Bolsonaro, they say, should be fought with activism. On the other hand, the representatives of the Portuguese State succumbed to the Riley-Day Syndrome, making them insensitive to pain and incapable of producing tears. The lack of emotion, synonymous with sense of State, was felt in the blameless communications from the Presidency of the Republic and the Government after the election.
Both types of reaction reflect the obvious. There is not only one relationship between Portugal and Brazil. There are several types of links, with various types of density, driven by various types of agents, often in divergent ways. It is like the sea with limes of Ericeira. Therefore, the reactions to the victory of Bolsonaro should also be varied. Some may be harmed, others may not.
Diplomacy may be directly affected. Topics such as lusophony and CPLP are expected to fall another step on the scale of Brazilian priorities. They will pass from the ground floor to the basement. In the electoral campaign, none of the candidates or their closest allies, made any reference to this matter, nor do any of them have close relations with Portugal. Their new priorities appear to be in strengthening relations with the US, Israel and South Korea.
In recent weeks I have recovered dozens of old interviews and writings of the five people closest to Bolsonaro in the international area (Amb. Ernesto Fraga Araújo, Luiz Philippe de Orléans e Bragança, Ana Amélia, Marcos Troyjo, and Amb. Luís Henrique Sobreira Lopes), being unable to detect any interest in lusophone countries. One of them, Prince Luiz Philippe, used the Cross of the Order of Christ in the propaganda materials of the recent campaign to federal deputy. Despite this, and being incontinent on Twitter, where he talks about Brazil's relations with several countries, he never tweeted about Portugal. It can be wise. But it can be disinterest.
This is actually good news. Portugal has the advantage of being an unknown country for Bolsonaro and his allies. It's a blank sheet. In a context where trenches are already being dug, neutrality is an opportunity. By enjoying unprecedented freedom, Portuguese diplomacy will have to be expeditious and creative in order to supply the bilateral relationship with new agendas and themes.
This does not mean being complicit in other people's crimes or succumbing to utilitarianism, as happened with Hugo Chávez in Venezuela or José Eduardo dos Santos in Angola. The President of the Republic and the Prime Minister should not show an excess of intimacy with Bolsonaro nor should they cease to be strict in the global protection of human rights, but should create the minimum conditions for the different representatives of Portugal to walk on the Brazilian minefield. In space as well as in time, Brazil is not just its new President.
But it's not just Brasilia. Our country can and should strengthen relations with Brazilian subnational governments, some of them with a GDP higher than the Portuguese. Between 2012 and 2014, France, the United Kingdom, Canada and the USA signed agreements to establish formal and direct relations with the State of São Paulo, for example. Portugal should follow this path.
On January 1, 2019, the day of Bolsonaro's inauguration, will be used to rehearse the new script. If Portugal is represented by the President of the Republic or by the prime minister, as in the inauguration of Dilma Rousseff in 2011, it will signal intimacy and could generate domestic friction. On the other hand, not sending someone would be an irrational gesture that would erode the interests of the state.
Therefore, the country should be represented by the Minister of Foreign Affairs. On the Brazilian side, the secondary representation should not cause any disaffection, as it did not generate when Paulo Portas represented the country in Dilma's inauguration in 2015. Augusto Santos Silva could also take advantage of the trip to Brazil in the beginning of the year to visit the new governors of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.
Portuguese society will also have to be coherent. If it supported passionately the 89 million Brazilians who resisted and did not vote for Bolsonaro, it should show openness to those who decide to move to Portugal. This is because the new political context should stimulate a silent but consistent exodus of creative professionals, good professionals and Brazilian intellectuals.
Over the decades, the Portuguese became accustomed to the Brazilian immigration of the lower classes, transferring their calluses and suburban apartments. In recent years they have also met the "new rich," those who buy high-quality properties to live in Portugal with the same insularity they lived in Miami or Barra da Tijuca.
But they do not know the Brazilian literate middle class. Certainly there have been Brazilian intellectuals who lived in Portugal, such as the journalist Alberto Dines, the filmmaker Glauber Rocha, or the writer Mário Prata, but we may have never been exposed to such a large estuary of well-prepared Brazilians of working age with an interest in contributing to the Portuguese society.
Portugal is a welcoming country for foreigners, but few are able to enter the spaces of power. Unlike the UK, Germany or Sweden, we do not have foreigners in politics. Fareed Zakaria (born in India) and Christiane Amanpour (British and Iranian) are two of the best known TV presenters in the US. Both have even foreign accents. But in Portugal there is no evident diversity in the media.
In the list of the 25 most influential women in Portugal only two have origins in other countries (Isabel dos Santos and Francisca Van Dunem), while the British list has 12. Both countries are historically receptive to immigration, but Portugal is more closed, despite the more open borders. The arrival of Brazilians with good academic and professional training may lead to small and beneficial repairs in the structuring of power in the country.
Politics may also be affected. Portugal, like any other country, has a fringe of conservative society that coexists well with traditionalism and authoritarianism. Since the April 25th, these groups use the CDS and the PSD as temporary orphanages while waiting for an adoption. However, the recent contact of the PSD's current leadership with the political center has begun to leave the right-wing opinions homeless which, in addition to Bolsonaro's victory, may inspire dissent and lead to the creation of radical parties. We could believe that there are no leaders in Portugal with the elevation and charisma needed to command a right-wing populist movement. But history tells us that authoritarian leaders are almost always ill-finished and crude. And of these, Portugal has a hand full.
If we add to this the existence of a small national industry of fake news, as revealed by Diário de Notícias, or the presence of tabloid newspapers ready to highlight populism, we would already have the motive and the means. There is only missing the opportunity for the crime to be perfect. And that opportunity will come when Portugal goes through a deep crisis (of employment, problems with immigration, corruption etc.) that can be attributed to the left or when the growing distance between the population and the elites, which is growing, reaches a critical level. Finally, some Portuguese businessmen also rub their hands, pragmatically, with the deleterious victory of Bolsonaro. And they are partly right. No one can reasonably infer how intense will be the privatizations the new president has promised to make. But several of the 148 state-owned enterprises under federal government management are expected to be sold, particularly those operating in the energy and infrastructure sectors. Alone, Portuguese companies do not have bone structure for such heavy purchases. But they are the ideal partner for foreign companies of global stature, because they can bring local knowledge, cultural experience, and skilled and adaptable professionals - assets that may be lacking in large companies in China and the US.
* Rodrigo Tavares is founder and president of Granito Group. His academic career includes the universities of Harvard, Columbia, Gothenburg and California-Berkeley. He was appointed Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.