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Guinea-Bissau - Foreign Relations

Guinea-Bissau is a haven of lawlessness where the state is rapidly losing its ability to govern, and drug cartels operate openly without fear of prosecution or interdiction. The open borders and lack of control over financial transactions that attract narcotics and human traffikers may also attract those engaged in other illicit activities such as arms smuggling and terrorism. By most estimates, the country receives the highest volume of cocaine traffic in all of West Africa because of the ease with which traffickers can operate.

Guinea-Bissau follows a nonaligned foreign policy and seeks friendly and cooperative relations with a wide variety of states and organizations. Angola, Cuba, the European Union, France, The Gambia, Portugal, Brazil, Mauritania, Nigeria, People's Republic of China, Libya, Senegal, Spain, Guinea, and Russia have embassies in Bissau. Belgium, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the U.S. conduct diplomatic relations with Guinea-Bissau through their embassies in neighboring Dakar, Senegal.

Guinea-Bissau is a member of the UN and many of its specialized and related agencies. It is a member of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF); African Development Bank (AFDB), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), African Union, and permanent Interstate Committee for drought control in the Sahel (CILSS). Guinea-Bissau also is a member of the Group of 77 (G-77), International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and World Health Organization (WHO).

Several factors come together in Guinea-Bissau to give it the potential to cause a disproportionately grave threat to stability and peace in West Africa relative to its size and population: a weak government that only rules with the permission of the armed forces; territory used periodically by separatist rebels from Senegal's Casamance region; poorly guarded munitions stocks which occasionally get pilfered; small arms and light weapons trafficking; a large yet unknown number of men under arms, including those who fought in the war for independence and have never been properly demobilized or surrendered their weapons; and the presence of al Qaida-trained terrorists and Hezbollah financiers.

The Brazilian Cooperation Agency (ABC) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is responsible for the implementation of technical cooperation projects. In Guinea-Bissau, ABC develops projects in several areas, including safety, health, agriculture, education, statistics and support entrepreneurship, among others. In addition to the ABC projects, many other Brazilian institutions contribute to the cooperation between the two countries in areas such as human rights and food security. In recent years, it has also increased the international interest of other countries and organizations to be Brazil's partners in projects in developing countries through trilateral cooperation, and especially South-South cooperation.

In Guinea-Bissau, a successful example of South-South cooperation is the Agriculture Development Project Fund IBSA (India, Brazil and South Africa). In partnership with the Bissau-Guinean government, through training in tropical agriculture, IBSA has helped to increase production yields, literate hundreds of women and brought solar power to communities previously isolated. Brazil has a priority in their cooperation the creation of structuring actions that promote local development through technology transfer and training of personnel in permanent dialogue with the Government of Guinea-Bissau. Without conditionalities and always adapted to local particularities, Brazilian cooperation seeks to innovate in solutions for the developing world.

The United States is virtually the only great power that does not have an embassy in Guinea-Bissau. In addition to the former colonial power, Portugal and regional neighbors Senegal and The Gambia, China, Russia, and France, as well as the European Commission, Brazil, Cuba, Nigeria, and Libya all have embassies in Bissau. Spain and Angola both opened embassies in 2007. Among these missions, little was being done to help politicians, political parties, and civil society understand the democratic process. Politics in Guinea-Bissau is governed almost solely by petty personal interests.

Cuba has historically close ties to Guinea-Bissau and many elites have studied there, including the Prime Minister. Cuba is active diplomatically and holds occasional anti-U.S. rallies to highlight specific policy grievances. It also supports health and development initiatives, including dispatching doctors throughout the country.

Today, the country of about 1.5 million is roughly a third Muslim, but countries like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are pumping money into communities and tilting the balance. Observers see more strict observance of Muslim customs, hear more radical messages on the radio, and see more Koranic schools and madrassas going up.

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