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The India of Latin America?

The United States should improve relations with Brazil.

9:05 AM, Apr 9, 2012 • By JAIME DAREMBLUM
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By getting tougher on Iran, Rousseff has helped repair some of the damage that Lula did to U.S.-Brazil ties. Yet she remains disappointingly hesitant to champion human rights in Cuba and Venezuela. That is no big surprise. Brazil has seldom been a reliable defender of hemispheric democracy. Back in the 1980s, for example, Brazilian officials launched the multilateral Rio Group, which sought to resolve the Cold War conflicts then raging in Central America. Yet the organization proved anything but a neutral and objective mediator. Instead, it worked to defend the Nicaraguan Sandinistas and Salvadoran FMLN guerrillas, both of which were Marxist-Leninist outfits that rejected liberal democracy.

The Reagan-era civil wars may now seem like ancient history, but Latin American democracy is still being threatened by populist autocrats. Unfortunately, when asked in 2008 about the dictatorial Hugo Chávez, Lula hailed him as “Venezuela’s best president in the last 100 years.” Indeed, Brazil’s coziness with Chávez and the Castro brothers remains a huge impediment to stronger relations with the United States. Hopefully, President Rousseff will be reminded of that during her visit to the White House.

Jaime Daremblum is director of the Center for Latin American Studies at the Hudson Institute.

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