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After a rocky few years and a slip down the index’s rankings, there are signs to suggest that Brazil could be reinventing itself as the Soft Power champion of South America, this year climbing three spots to number 26 and sitting as the continent’s sole representative on the index. A rise in the Cultural sub-index is boosted by the ever-popular Carnival, an increase in the football rankings and prominent landmarks such as Christ the Redeemer, though for how long these assets will be able to prop up Brazil’s soft power standing as President Jair Bolsonaro continues to divide opinion among the international community is yet to be determined.
Shaped by a colourful history and indigenous influences, it’s no surprise that Brasília has leveraged its cultural capital through the José Bonifácio Institute and exported Brazilian culture abroad, a move reflected in the country’s improved ranking in the Culture sub-index. Nationwide protests against spending freezes and cuts to higher education posed no obstacle to Brazil’s Education sub-index ranking, which in rising to the 25th spot, overtakes fellow Lusophone ally Portugal.
The approach of President Jair Bolsonaro – dubbed the “Trump of the tropics” – to the international community is at odds with Brazil’s soft power potential. His public rejection of the G7’s aid offering to fight wildfires in the Amazon drew sharp criticism on the international stage, and a rising crime rate against tourists have likely weakened international perceptions of Brazil.
Polling at last place in the Enterprise sub-index, Brazil needs to desperately address the rampant corruption and relative difficulty for foreign businesses to operate in the country. Given the country’s open embrace of connectivity and digital technologies, this shouldn’t be too difficult to achieve, though President Bolsonaro’s reputation as an out-of-control nationalist – rather than as a domestic freedom crusader – may create obstacles.