Meddling by consent? Brazil’s strategy of democracy promotion through UNASUR

Breitegger, Melina Stephanie (2020-12)

Thesis (DPhil)--Stellenbosch University, 2020.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This thesis addresses the gap in the literature on democracy promotion by regional powers through regional organizations in the Global South. This thesis focuses on the regional power of Brazil and analyses its democracy promotion strategy through the regional organization of UNASUR –the Union of South American Nations. Based on an embedded, single case study design, the study evaluates the willingness and capability of Brazil to promote democracy in three instances of democratic disruption. Thereby, it shows the strengths and weaknesses of Brazil’s leadership strategy within the context of UNASUR during three administrations (Lula da Silva, Dilma Rousseff, and Michel Temer). Brazil’s regional power status in South America, its interest in regional stability, and its pivotal role in the creation of UNASUR and its democracy promotion framework stands in contrast to the variance of Brazil’s leadership performance within UNASUR’s democracy promotion activities in Bolivia, Paraguay and Venezuela. UNASUR’s democracy promotion in Bolivia’s constitutional crisis (2008) was considered a success, the sanctioning of the impeachment of the president of Paraguay (2012) provoked mixed reactions among analysts and politicians, and efforts to solve Venezuela’s political and humanitarian crisis (2013-) have been evaluated as a failure. Because of Brazil’s role as the single regional power within a regional organization of multilateral structure, UNASUR’s mixed record is associated with Brazil’s (lack of) leadership. Based on the central theoretical concept of consensual hegemony (Burges, 2008), it is argued that Brazil’s leadership strategy rests upon consensus creation. UNASUR provided the necessary institutional mantle for Brazil’s consensual hegemony, through which Brazil could facilitate joint regional action for democracy promotion. Consensual hegemony offered the opportunity of a low-cost leadership strategy. However, a successful consensual hegemonic strategy rests on at least 2 out of 3 preconditions: the attractiveness of the regional powers vision (domestic factor), the absence of competition for regional leadership and a relatively homogenous ideological regional environment (regional factor), and the absence of intervention by external actors (international factor). Therefore, the variance in Brazil’s leadership capacity in democracy promotion can be explained by the degree of Brazil’s domestic economic and political strength, the level of ideological coherence between left-wing and right-wing governments, the varying involvement of external powers in South American affairs; in combination with the degree of power imbalance between Brazil and the target states.The thesis reveals how leadership in democracy promotion happens in the context of a regional environment where intervention in domestic affairs of neighbouring states is against regional norms, and where states refuse to transfer power from the multilateral to the supranational level. Democracy promotion through (multilateral) regional organizations allowed Brazil to reconcile the norms of non-intervention and national sovereignty with the practice of democracy promotion in South America. The research findings offer an opportunity for further theory building and encourage empirical and theoretical research on regional powers’ leadership within regional organizations’ democracy promotion activities in diverse regional contexts.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie tesis spreek die gaping in die literatuur aan met betrekking tot demokrasie-bevordering deur streeksmagte in streeksorganisasies in die Globale Suide. Hierdie tesis fokus op Brasilië as ‘n streeksmag en analiseer dié land se demokrasie-bevorderingstrategie in UNASUR -die Unie van Suid-Amerikaanse Nasies. Die studie is gebaseer op ‘n ingebedde, enkele gevallestudie-ontwerp en evalueer Brasilië se bereidwilligheid en kapasiteit om demokrasie te bevorder in drie gevalle van demokratiese ontwrigting. Daardeur toon die studie die sterk-en swakpunte van Brasilië se leierskapstrategie in die konteks van UNASUR tydens drie administrasies aan (Lula da Silva, Dilma Rousseff, and Michel Temer). Brasilië se status as streeksmag in Suid-Amerika, die land se belang in stabiliteit in die streek, en sy deurslaggewende rol in die skepping van UNASUR, asook dié organisasie se demokrasie-bevorderingsraamwerk, kontrasteer met Brasilië se leierskapsoptrede binne UNASUR se demokrasie-bevorderingsaktiwiteite in Bolivië, Paraguay en Venezuela. UNASUR se demokrasie-bevordering tydens Boliviëse grondwetlike krisis (2008) is as ‘n sukses beskou, die sanksie van die beskuldigingsproses van die president van Paraguay (2008) het gemengde reaksie ontlok vanaf ontleders en politici, en pogings om Venezuela se politieke en humanitêre krisis (2013-) op te los is as ‘n mislukking beskou. As gevolg van Brasilië se rol as die enkele streeksmag binne ‘n streeksorganisaie met ‘n multilaterale struktuur, word UNASUR se gemengde rekord geassosieer met Brasilië se (gebrek aan) leierskap. Gebaseer op die sentrale teoretiese konsep van konsensuele hegemonie (Burges, 2008), word daar geargumenteer dat Brasilë se leierskapstrategie op konsensus skepping berus. UNASUR het die nodige institutionele mantel verskaf vir Brasilië se konsensuele hegemonie, waardeur Brasilië gesamentlike aksies vir demokrasie-bevordering in die streek kon fasiliteer. Konsensuele hegemonie het die geleentheid vir ‘n lae-koste leierskapstrategie gebied. ‘n Suksesvolle konsensuele hegemoniese strategie berus egter op ten minste twee uit drie voorvereistes: die aantreklikheid van die streeksmag se visie (plaaslike faktor), die gebrek aan kompetisie vir streeksleierskap en ‘n relatiewe homogene ideologiese streeksomgewing (streeksfaktor), en die afwesigheid van ingryping deur eksterne akteurs (internasionale faktor). Die variasie in Brasilië se kapasiteit vir leierskap in demokrasie-bevordering kan dus verklaar word deur die vlak van Brasilië se binnelandse ekonomiese en politiese mag, die vlak van ideologiese samehang tussen linkse en regse regerings, die wisselende betrokkenheid van eksterne magte in Suid-Amerikaanse belange; in kombinasie met die vlak van die magswanbalans tussen Brasilië en die teikenstate.Die tesis onthul hoe leierskap in demokrasie-bevordering in die konteks van ‘n streeksomgewing plaasvind waar ingryping in die binnelandse sake van buurlande teen die norme van die streek is, en waar state weier om mag oor te dra vanaf die multilaterale na die supranasionale vlak. Demokrasie-bevordering deur middle van (multilaterale) streeksorganisasies laat Brasilië dus toe om norme van nie-inmenging en nasionale soewereiniteit te versoen met die beoefening van demokrasie-bevordering in Suid-Amerika. Die navorsingsbevindinge bied dus ‘n geleentheid vir verdere teorie skepping en moedig empiriese en teoretiese navorsing aan met betrekking tot die leierskap van streeksmagte binne streeksorganisasies se demokrasie-bevorderingsaktiwiteite in diverse streeks kontekste.

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