Colombia in the Face of Brazilian Power Projection

Dr. Daniel Flemes
2015 - 2016
German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD / ProCol Programme)

Pontifica Universidad Javeriana, Bogotá, Columbia

Universidad Santiago de Cali, Cali, Columbia

Brazilian Embassy in Bogotá, Columbia



Research Questions

  • How has Brazil’s power projection within the region affected the way in which Colombia and Brazil have mutually constructed their bilateral relations in different policy areas?
  • What could the issue-specific strategic options for Colombian foreign policy be in order to encourage its own development and international position in the face of the opportunities and risks that Brazil’s power projection represents?

Contribution to International Research
The project aims at analysing the ways in which Brazil’s power projection within the region has affected the construction of Brazil and Colombia bilateral relations from the 1990s onwards. Based on a pluralistic theoretical framework – from the perspectives of neoclassical realism, constructivism, and liberal institutionalism –, we strive for the fulfillment of the following specific objectives:

  • To analyse the development of Colombian–Brazilian relations in border security and the fight against transnational crime, as well as in their armament and defence policies.
  • To identify convergences and divergences in the economic negotiations within multilateral organisations, as well as in their bilateral trade and investment relations.
  • To identify the impact of Colombia’s internal conflict on bilateral relations with Brazil, as well as the role that Brazil could play as a potential mediator in the search for a politically-negotiated solution.
  • To establish the influence that the geopolitical aspects of both countries have in the development of interconnected infrastructural projects, such as roads and energy, as well as the influence that geo-economic and energetic factors have in the structuring of their bilateral relations.
  • To determine the impact that external powers such as China and the U.S. have (and have had) on the development of relations between Brazil and Colombia.

Research Design and Methods
The scrutiny of emerging regional powers – and the reactions of secondary powers to the challenges of this phenomenon – can be best approached through a joint theoretical focus within International Relations (in other words, realism, institutionalism, and constructivism), in which area studies would need to play an important role. As a result, theoretical plurality as an interpretive framework necessarily implies the use of a pluralistic methodology.

The first step for all of the envisaged studies will be the analysis of the existing literature. As a second step, semi-structured expert interviews will be conducted. Relevant interviewees will include government officials, experts on foreign policy, and officials from Brazilian companies that operate in Colombia. The main advantage of the semi-structured interview method is its flexibility, as it allows for new questions to be brought up during the interview as a result of the interviewee’s answers. The semi-structured interview is the most adequate tool for capturing a person’s thoughts on a particular subject matter. Data gained in this way will be evaluated using the methods of qualitative content analysis (Mayring 2008).

The close collaboration envisaged between the allied Colombian and German researchers will be further realised through two workshops to be held in Bogotá in February 2014 and February 2015; these are essential means by which to guarantee the quality of every individual study. The workshops will not only provide the opportunity to discuss theoretical approaches and empirical findings, but they will also allow all of the involved participants to benefit from the broad range of methodological expertise that we will have assembled for this project. Our broad methodological approach bears resemblance to strategies of interpreting quantitative and qualitative data that are usually subsumed under the heading of "process tracing." Process tracing is comparable to the assembling of a puzzle without knowing whether one possesses all the necessary pieces of the puzzle, or indeed whether all of the available pieces are actually a part of the puzzle (George/McKeown 1985: 36).