On June 29, Brazilian Defense Minister Geraldo Magela Quintao was the keynote speaker at a dinner launching the Center's new "Project Brazil." Quintao is the second civilian to serve as Brazilian defense minister and the first to visit the United States. Project Brazil aims to forward understanding of Brazil in the United States and to enhance the U.S.-Brazilian dialogue.

As the last country in the Western hemisphere -- save Cuba -- to establish a civilian-run ministry of defense, Brazil must catch up quickly if it wants to play the role of regional leader and global player, Quintao said. In particular, he would like to see the Brazilian government practice a more integrated and modern concept of defense. He emphasized the need to involve civil society in bringing its defense policy up to date. Toward that end, he has invited twenty-two defense experts from Brazil's civil sector to serve as consultants on defense policy.

One of those experts is Luis Bitencourt, director of Project Brazil within the Center's Latin American Program. "I am very honored to accept Minister Quintao's invitation," Bitencourt said. "My contribution, in the form of recommendations and suggestions, will consist of promoting the participation of Brazilian civil society in national defense policymaking. This is a critical issue -- not only to legitimize defense-related decisions but also to strengthen Brazilian democracy." Bitencourt added that he hoped Quintao's attempts to strengthen Brazil's democratic process would attract the attention of the American public. "The presence of Minister Quintao in the Woodrow Wilson Center to launch the Brazil project was extraordinarily important and symbolic," he said.

Despite the United States and Brazil's numerous shared interests, their relationship has yet to achieve its full potential. Project Brazil seeks to facilitate an in-depth, comprehensive, and nonpartisan approach to analyzing issues faced by policymakers in Brazil, the United States, and international organizations to which both countries belong. The project will hold a series of public seminars as well as hosting regular meetings of a Working Group on Brazil composed of Brazilian and non-Brazilian high-level policymakers, analysts, private sector leaders, and scholars. The Project will also appoint a number of public policy scholars to conduct research on U.S.-Brazilian issues and to share their experiences as policy practitioners. The results of these initiatives will be disseminated to relevant members of the policymaking community and to Brazilians and Brazilianists active in shaping U.S. perceptions of Brazil.

Project Brazil is sponsored by a number of donors, who as members of its board of advisors, will be encouraged to suggest themes for the project to focus on. Also cooperating in the fulfillment of the project's mission is the Brazilian Embassy in Washington. The Brazilian Ambassador to the United States is Rubens Antônio Barbosa.