By Felicia Bryson, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – In perhaps the most significant step since she took office on January 1st, President Dilma Rousseff has differentiated herself from former leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva by supporting the UN vote to monitor human rights in Iran. It marks Brazil’s first change in foreign policy under the new administration and demonstrates Brazil’s desire to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council.
“It is of particular concern for us not to comply with the delay of the death penalty, not only in Iran but in all countries that still practice the execution of people as a punishment”, Brazil’s ambassador to the Council of Human Rights, Maria de Nazaré Farani explained.
Over the past decade Brazil always abstained or voted against sanctions enforced by the UN Security Council. Less than a year ago in June 2010, Brazil and Turkey voted against putting Iran under pressure for its nuclear program. A tradition President Dilma has decided to abandon.
A few days before taking office January first, she had voiced differences in foreign policy with Lula, having criticized Brazil’s abstention at the UN Human rights council vote on Iran in 2010.
“That is not my position”, was Dilma’s unilateral reply. She added in an interview with the Washington Post that the capital punishment sentence by lapidating (to stone to death) imposed on the Iranian woman Sakineh Ashtiani for alleged complicity in the killing of her husband was “unacceptable”.
Until now though, Dilma had not had an opportunity to formally demonstrate where she stood in comparison to her predecessor, whom was her mentor and certainly helped her win the presidential election. Three months after taking over the presidency from Lula, Dilma has begun to emerge from his shadow in a formal policy change.
Also, during Obama’s visit to Brazil last week, the two discussed future trade cooperation in areas such as genetics, biotechnology, finding renewable energy sources and deep-sea oil exploration. Many speculated that these conversations were not likely to have taken place between Lula and the U.S. administration.
“We are a country struggling to emerge from years of low performance. Thus we are looking for more fair and balanced trade. For us, it is essential that barriers that stand against our products are broken,” defended the president referring to products such as biofuels, specifically ethanol, cotton, and steel products, which face surcharges to enter the United States.
During his presidency, Lula led Brazil to the top ranks of nations in the world by implementing major social reforms, which thus helped to bring about an economic boom. The huge benefits that Brazil has enjoyed in recent years, is therefore also a challenge for Dilma as any backsliding could threaten her popularity.
Although both leaders are known for their left-wing stances, Dilma is differentiated by her time as a former Marxist rebel during the military regime (1964-1985). It was during this period that as a prisoner she reportedly suffered torture, and many attribute this to a stronger stance on human rights.
“Brazil believes that all countries, no exception, have challenges to face in this field. President Rousseff made it quite plain that she will closely monitor the human rights situation globally, beginning with Brazil”, said Ambassador Maria de Nazaré Farani.