Oswaldo Aranha and the “pendulum politics” of Brazil during World War II | The morning

As Minister of Foreign Affairs, Oswaldo Aranha was responsible for conducting Brazilian foreign policy during the Estado Novo period (1937-1945), a period during which totalitarian-type governments were on the rise in Europe, which found sympathizers within the government. Brazilian. These sympathies generated confrontations that resulted in the swinging foreign policy of Getulio Vargas. The figure of Aranha as Statesman It was instrumental in articulating the confrontations between the pro-German and pro-American wings, thus contributing to the formulation of the foreign policy adopted by Brazil during World War II.

Oswaldo Aranha was one of the main leaders of the Liberal Alliance and of the group that negotiated the assumption of Vargas in the provisional government after the 1930 Revolution. During the provisional government, he was initially responsible for the Justice and Internal Affairs portfolio, before becoming later position of the Ministry of Finance. Disappointed with the direction of the provisional government, Aranha requested his resignation from the government, but Vargas did not accept it, offering him the position of ambassador of Brazil in Washington, which he assumed in 1934. Oswaldo Aranha was aware of the weight of the United States in the economy Brazilian: between 1933 and 1934 that destination represented more than 22% of Brazil’s exports and 43% of its imports.

By the way, by fostering a special relationship with the United States in the midst of the crisis of the international system, the ambassador took into account the interests of Brazilian agro-exports, dependent on foreign investment. As a result, he adopted a pragmatic position, convinced that, economically and ideologically, it would be more advantageous to maintain a special relationship with the United States, within a framework of openness, than through countertrade with Germany.

In terms of foreign trade, Brazil at the time was torn between industrializing protectionism and classical liberalism. In the international arena, free trade was defended by countries with great industrial productivity and financial capacity, as was the case of the United States, which considered that this was the only adequate policy to restore international trade after the 1929 crisis. On the other hand, protected trade was the policy defended by countries such as Germany, which had suffered a severe curb on its exports and imports during the Great Depression, and had difficult access to international financing.

The establishment in 1937 of the Estado Novo was favorably received in Italy and Germany, but in the United States the reaction was negative. The State Department was in utter consternation. Newspapers also reported Vargas’s decision to suspend servicing the foreign debt, causing a commotion in US financial circles. After reading the letter in which Vargas explained his motives, Oswaldo Aranha responded by telegram condemning the coup and requesting to resign from his position as ambassador in Washington. After trying to dissuade him, Vargas accepted his resignation, and Aranha sailed for Brazil on December 11, 1937. In a world rapidly heading towards war, Aranha was absolutely convinced that a strengthening of the special relationship with the United States would prove vital to the security of Brazil.

The situation was favorable for Brazil due to the world fracture caused by the two expansionist blocs, led by the United States and Germany. Faced with this dilemma, Aranha saw in the defense of Pan-Americanism and democracy the best alternative for the United States. Later, already in 1940, this would be the path taken by those responsible for US foreign policy, noting that it would not be enough to only promote democratic values. As a result, they came to defend the idea of ​​Pan-Americanism as a useful instrument that would allow the amalgamation of cultural and ideological values ​​with the interests of liberal trade. With this idea in mind, Oswaldo Aranha assumed the post of Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1938, after finally accepting the Estado Novo. From that moment Aranha would be in charge of international relations and Vargas of the internal affairs of Brazil. Trade with the United States –considered by Aranha as the most effective way to maintain hemispheric defense– became his administration’s priority. His diplomacy and his objectives were very similar to those of the Baron of Rio Branco at the dawn of the Republic. Both worked to elevate Brazil as the preponderant power in South America, based on its demographic and economic potential. To do this, he based his internal and foreign policy actions on the search for reconciliation, approximation and harmonization of interests between the countries of the hemisphere and the powers with which Brazil had trade agreements.

With the outbreak of the war in Europe in September 1939, and like other American nations, Brazil tried to remain neutral. However, the vulnerability of the Brazilian northeast worried the Roosevelt government, which expressed its interest in advancing its bilateral agenda with Brazil. On the agenda were negotiations for the sale of arms and the installation of a steel industry with North American capital. But despite multiple proposals and rounds of talks, the only concrete offer from the United States involved sending troops, something the Armed Forces saw as a violation of national sovereignty. In May 1940 the British naval blockade removed Latin America from the German commercial sphere of action. In this way, the internal discussion in Latin America was minimized by the force of the facts, as the presence of European products was significantly reduced and, in counterpart, the penetration of North American products increased.

Discussions then focused on negotiations with the United States. Vargas’s pragmatic objective was to take advantage of the situation to force Americans to invest in the steel industry. After long conversations and speeches by Vargas in which he exalted German power and worried Washington, the US government gave in and granted Brazil the necessary financing for the construction of the Brazilian steel industry. The American embassy in Rio de Janeiro was convinced that Getúlio’s threat to resort to Germany was serious and could come true if the talks and promises of the United States were not turned into concrete actions. The meetings were held in August 1940 in Washington and an agreement would be reached by the end of September. Under it, the Brazilian government would build the steel mill, the purchase of the machinery would be financed through loans from the Eximbank and technical assistance would be provided by private US companies. On May 9, 1941, the contract was signed with Eximbank, creating the Companhia Siderúrgica Nacional (CSN) in Volta Redonda (Rio de Janeiro state).

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Oswaldo Aranha and the “pendulum politics” of Brazil during World War II | The morning