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Venezuela - Brazil Relations

Despite rough patches, Brasilia has a lasting interest in maintaining good relations with Caracas. In 2007 Brazil continued to push for Venezuela's Mercosur accession. Brazil believed Chavez was easier to contain within Mercosur than outside of it, and that Brazil is strong enough to prevent Chavez from fundamentally altering Mercosur. Commerce between Venezuela and Brazil continued to boom, and it soon eclipsed Venezuelan trade with Colombia, making Brazil Venezuela's second largest trading partner after the United States.

Historically, the strategic postures of Venezuela and Brazil have proven to be largely exclusive, with few points of intersection or friction. In contrast to Venezuela's inclination toward the Caribbean, Brazil's external focus lay to the east, toward the southern Atlantic Ocean. As Brazil has begun to emphasize the extension, exploitation, and protection of its Amazon resources, however, minor potential conflict areas have emerged.

The Brazilian interest in the Essequibo dispute served as a signal of peripheral friction. Some Venezuelan observers have claimed that Brazil harbored a desire to extend not only its influence but also its territorial access northward to the Caribbean. It is not clear whether governments in Caracas have shared this concern. Brazilian outreach to previously neglected areas such as Guyana and Suriname, however, has highlighted for Venezuelan strategic planners the vulnerability of the southern and eastern frontiers. In this context, the movement to develop and populate areas more remote from the Caribbean heartland, such as Ciudad Guayana, could be viewed not only as a response to economic circumstances, but also as a move to bolster the nation's security posture.

Although neither government has stressed the issue publicly, the question of itinerant Brazilian gold miners plying their trade illegally across the border has been an irritant to Venezuela. Although the strategic effect of this phenomenon was negligible, its implications appeared serious to some Venezuelan policy makers. This was because the situation touched on two nationalistic sore points: Venezuela's inability to police effectively its long southern border and its apparent inability to protect its natural resources. The latter issue was a particularly resonant one in light of Venezuela's dependence on one resource--petroleum--for its economic existence.





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