December 23, 2008 [LINK / comment]

Brazil basks in global attention

In a large step toward realizing the long-standing aspirations by Brazil to become a Great Power, top officials from the European Union nations attended a summit meeting in Rio de Janeiro, seeking to improve economic relations. Presidents da Silva and Sarkozy (visiting from France) signed an agreement under which the latter will provide technology to construct advanced military weapons: 50 helicopters, four conventional submarines, and one "nuclear-capable" submarine. That would be a first in Latin America, potentially reigniting the ancient rivalry between Brazil and Argentina. (The final decision by France on whether to complete the nuclear reactor may depend on further negotiations.) Sarkozy paid tribute to Brazil's progress in economic development by comparing its global importance to India and China, two other very large countries that were once very poor but are becoming wealthier every day. Millions of Brazilians no doubt swelled with pride at hearing such compliments. See, BBC, and O Globo (in Portuguese). Inasmuch as France has become a much more reliable ally since Nicolas Sarkozy was elected president in 2007, the United States should not object to the desire of Latin American countries to diversify their sources of armaments, as long as it is a friendly country. (Not Russia or China.)

Brazil's auto industry

While Americans are lamenting the declining fortunes of the domestic auto industry, the Ford Motor Company continues to pioneer in the globalization of vehicle manufacturing. One of their newest auto factories is located in Camaçari, in the state of Bahia, in northeastern Brazil. There is a remarkable video on this high-tech plant, featuring hundreds of "robots" on highly efficient assembly lines, at (Hat tip to Patrick Carne.)"Sources in Dearborn say privately that this is the sort of facility Ford would love to build in the U.S., if only the UAW, historically averse to this sort of supplier integration, would allow it." (Is anyone in Washington paying attention???) There is a plentiful supply of well-educated, well-motivated workers in Brazil, and the left-leaning government of "Lula" da Silva has refrained -- to his credit -- from taking any actions that might undermine private businesses.

Kidnapping in Mexico

In Mexico, meanwhile, outlaws associated with drug trafficking continue to wreak havoc. Earlier this month, an American who specializes in thwarting kidnappers and negotiating the release of hostages was himself abducted. It happened during a meeting with Mexican businessmen on how to prevent kidnapping, an obvious attempt to intimidate legitimate businesses into accepting mafia terms for protection. See Washington Post. Impunity is rampant, and continued political paralysis in the capital city makes it hard for the Mexican government security forces to respond effectively.