he sudden announcement of the size of the Tupi oil field has pushed Brazil into a delicate and potentially powerful economic and political position in the Americas. Petrobras, the Brazilian state-run oil company, has known about the field for more than a year. Up until now, however, they have been tight lipped as to the size of Tupi, which is located off the southeastern coast of Brazil. Petrobras recently cast aside their silent treatment in regard to the field, which was revealed to have between five and eight billion barrels of crude oil and natural gas. The possibilities of this new development have ramifications for three main actors: Brazil, Venezuela and the United States.
With the discovery of Tupi and the more northerly oil field in the Campos and Espirito Santo basins, Brazil, which only last year utilized its hydroelectric and ethanol energy sources to become a minor energy exporter, could possibly export as much light oil (the most valuable and least expensive to produce form of crude oil) as some countries in the Arab world, and even as much as Venezuela.
Venezuela, which is currently the leading energy exporter of the starved southern portion of the Americas, has interests in the newly discovered oil fields. As was stated in the November 17 issue of the New York Times, "Mr. Chavez nervously jested that Mr. da Silva was now an 'oil magnate.' He also quickly suggested that the two nations create an Amazonian energy region similar to the Caribbean and Andean integration efforts Venezuela had been pushing for." With this, Venezuela has shown what it perceives to be its interests involving the new Brazilian discoveries. Caracas does not have illusions of having a full scale energy monopoly in South America; however, it is interested in cooperation with Brazil if the latter allows it.
A force that could counter Venezuelan influence is the United States. With Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's rhetoric directed at the United States, it is not difficult to imagine that Washington would attempt to use its regional influence to affect the policies of Brazil, most likely in order to undermine Venezuelan attempts to form a cooperative partnership between the two states. U.S. interests in the matter are to curb Venezuelan power in the region, by creating a sort of regional power balance between Venezuela and Brazil, the latter of which the United States would hope to maintain friendly relations.
With the attention of a great power like the United States, and a regional power like Venezuela, Brazil finds itself in a position of power that gives it several opportunities. Whether or not the Brazilian government headed by President Lula Ignacio da Silva will choose a path of unilateral action and stay completely unaffected by the two interceding powers or cooperate with the two powers vying for its attention is yet to be seen, but it is critical to recognize that Brazil will determine its own actions and that it is a strong enough power to hold all the cards in the current situation.
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