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The human rights diplomacy : the Carter presidency and the relationship with Brazil (1977-1981)

Losito, Simona (2013) The human rights diplomacy : the Carter presidency and the relationship with Brazil (1977-1981). Advisor: Del Pero, Prof. Mario. Coadvisor: Cavallaro, Dr. Maria Elena . pp. 257. [IMT PhD Thesis]

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This work intends to shed light on the historical issue of the bilateral diplomatic relations between the United States and Brazil during the years of the Carter’s presidency and, more specifically, on the way the human rights issue affected this relationship. When Jimmy Carter took office in 1977, in the Southern Cone countries, namely Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil, fundamental civil and political liberties of citizens were systematically restricted or denied. The new presidential administration of the U.S. could not either ignore or tolerate those abuses. The fact that the United States and Latin America shared political and historical traditions, and participated in the same hemispheric defense system, substantially added to the view that the United States was obliged to promote human rights in this region. Carter’s primary and immediate aim in foreign policy seemed to be regaining U.S. moral authority. In the multifaceted world of détente and developing countries, the United States had to prove its primacy not only in the international economy, in the military capabilities, in the security systems, but had to prove of deserving that status, had to show of being promoter of values and ideals too. To advance human rights worldwide, and especially in Latin America, was the major tool that the Carter administration meant to use in its foreign policy. Since the beginning of its electoral campaign, Carter rejected the Nixon-Ford-Kissinger’s diplomatic style: the Realpolitik adopted in those years did not contemplate to raise human rights, because human rights promotion jeopardized other foreign policy goals. The new Democrat administration offered a clear break with the past practices, supporting and reinforcing the Congressional activity implemented since the early 1970s. The discussion on human rights abuses in the context of U.S. legislation and policy became relevant, and human rights issues started to be raised regularly and vigorously in diplomatic channels. Moreover, the new administration did not mean to adopt a univocal human rights diplomacy toward Latin America, but would rather adopt a country-by-country stance. When the Carter administration set forth its own definition of human rights, it clearly had in mind the international framework that was slowly but efficiently implemented throughout the thirty years after the end of World War II: the UN Charter (1945); the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948); the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (both entered into force in 1976); and finally the American Convention on Human Rights – or Pact of San Jose – signed by the member states of the OAS in July 1978. The introduction of the thesis focuses on the way human rights entered the political discourse in the 1970s and on the attitude the U.S. government had toward Latin America, and Brazil in particular, in the first 1970s. Jimmy Carter immediately brought something new in the U.S. rhetoric since the weeks of the electoral campaign. The major part of this work attentively describes step-by-step the deep evolution that the bilateral relations experienced through the four years: the sudden deterioration in the bilateral relations between the U.S. and Brazil, following the release of the human rights report on Brazil elaborated by the State Department, the consequent estrangement of the first months, that was repaired in less than one year thanks to the extraordinary effort that President Carter and his staff put to re-establish a dialogue with the Brazilian government. The availability of recently declassified diplomatic documents, collected both in U.S. and Brazilian archives, has allowed to analyze in detail all the diplomatic initiatives put into practice by the Americans. Brazil in the years of its liberalization U.S. interference in its internal affairs, but never interrupted the diplomatic relations and, indeed, Brasilia looked for an equal relationship with Washington. The thesis devotes particular attention to the high-level meetings that took place between June 1977 and March 1978: Rosalynn Carter’s trip to Brasilia and Recife (June 1977); Secretary Vance’s voyage to Brasilia to participate in the talks within the framework of the 1976 Memorandum of Understanding (November 1977); and finally President Carter’s diplomatic visits in Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro (March 1978). Besides the detailed description of the events, the thesis takes always into account the wider international scenario and always makes the effort to insert the bilateral events in the more complex Cold War system in the years of détente. Emphasis is given to 1979 as a turning point in the U.S.-Brazilian relations: João Baptista Figueiredo inaugurated his presidency in March 1979 and he would be the last President of the military regime. The new Brazilian President started immediately the liberalization process that, in six years, would lead Brazil toward a democratic regime. This change in the domestic political situation of Brazil deeply influenced also the diplomatic dialogue with Washington. On the other hand, 1979 was a demanding, difficult year for the United States as well: the second oil shock, the Iran hostage crisis, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, plus the electoral campaign for the 1980 presidential elections forced the Carter administration to divert its attention from the human rights diplomacy. Carter’s foreign policy, often described by the historiography as ineffective and too idealistic, is definitely re-evaluated in this dissertation: the choice of using idealism as a political tool was motivated by a realistic and pragmatic approach. The choice of making human rights a pivotal political discourse was strategically significant both for internal and international reasons. Human rights were an issue warmly supported by the Congress, that received wide support from both wings of the Democratic party, that the public opinion acclaimed, and that internationally could prove -also in the years of détente- the ideological primacy of the United States with respect to the Soviet Union. Taking into consideration all these aspects, Carter’s idealism proves to be incredibly realistic. Jimmy Carter, despite the often criticized inexperience in international affairs, proved to have very clear in mind how to deal with the post-Vietnam, post-Watergate U.S. disillusion. Throughout the thesis this aspect emerges very clearly. Moreover, as regards the specific analysis of the U.S.-Brazilian relationship, Carter never forgot how strategically relevant Brazil was in the hemisphere as well as in the North-South dialogue, but nevertheless never stopped to raise the human rights issue and made the topic widely debated even outside the Brazilian borders. Jimmy Carter was a President who tried to give the U.S. foreign policy a new course and to overcome the Cold War bipolar logic.

Item Type: IMT PhD Thesis
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
PhD Course: Political Science and Institutional Change
Identification Number: 10.6092/imtlucca/e-theses/123
NBN Number: urn:nbn:it:imtlucca-27156
Date Deposited: 27 Jan 2014 15:07
URI: http://e-theses.imtlucca.it/id/eprint/123

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