Some have seen Brazil’s recent increased interest in the South Atlantic as also involving a growing interest in Antarctica. Certainly, the construction of a brand-new Antarctic research station with an investment of nearly 100 millions USD, the announcement of the acquisition of a new polar auxiliary vessel costing about 30 million USD and the allocation of a new triennial budget of about 20 million had strengthened the view that Brazil is rising its stake in the southern continent. As China, another emerging power and fellow-member of the so-called BRICS, Brazil would be intending to transform its increased economic relevance to a refurbished strategic position and political prominence.
However, a closer look to Brazil’s Antarctic policy shows a rather different story. In contrast with China, to whom the investment in new bases and equipment obeyed to a plan to extend their activities in Antarctica, and which had been developed for the last three decades, reaching a wider geographical scope and occupying vacant regions such as Dome A; in the case of Brazil the construction of the new base obeyed to the total destruction of the previous station due to an accidental fire that accounted for the life of two military. At the same time, the allocation of funds for research had been achieved only when the situation reached a critical level and menaced the continuity of the research undertaken there, including long-term series of research going back more than three decades.
That situation is hardly new and obey to structural conditions of the Brazilian Antarctic Program (PROANTAR) and the way in which political decisions related to it are taken. The decentralization of Brazil’s Antarctic institutional setting gives more freedom to scientific institutions and universities, but with the associated cost of having no specialized agency, no institutional memory of Brazil’s Antarctic involvement and no politically intertwined body that could lobby for resources. To make things worse, the current political situation does not seems to signal a favourable turn for Brazil’s involvement in Antarctica.
Present and future challenges
As an active member of the political governance system for Antarctica known as the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS), Brazil is intrinsically involved with the challenges that such system is facing.Long standing issues that had concerned the ATS members include illegal fishing, bio-prospecting and the environmental footprint of human activities in Antarctica, including tourism and scientific research. New, emerging issues that the ATS could have to address in the near future include the impacts of global climate change in the Antarctic environment; the possibility of increased interest in Antarctic natural resources exploitation, including minerals; and the questioning to the regime legitimacy in the face of the rest of the world.
Political challenges arising from differences between the ATS parties and from questions aroused from outsiders of the system are not critical but have showed a tendency to be incremented in the near future. Of particular concern to some western countries have been the increasing involvement of China with Antarctica, something that has been many times interpreted as a signal of a possible interest on the frozen continent’s resources.
While Brazil have had a relative outstanding environmental performance in Antarctica and have contributed significantly to increase the corpus of knowledge in relevant scientific questions such as climate change and Antarctic oceanic biology; it is in relative disadvantage to actually deal with the more political challenges that the ATS is facing. The lack of a specialized body in the Foreign Relations Ministry (Itamaraty) — there is a single department that deals with the deep ocean, Antarctica and outer space — and of experts in Antarctic politics that could inform and assist the decision-making process and the development of political strategies is a serious limitation to the adoption of an active attitude by Brazil.
To aggravate the situation, the general policy of the actual government has been detrimental to scientific activity, particularly to federal funded programs. While no specific attack has been directed yet to the PROANTAR, the general tendency and the relative weaken position of the PROANTAR within the science and technology system of Brazil is anything but encouraging.
While Brazil’s limitations are important, there are also several opportunities that could be used to increase its presence within the Antarctic politics. Brazil’s relevance in the international arena; the traditional capital of its diplomatic ranks; Brazil’s participation in regional and multilateral organisms; its Antarctic tradition and the relevance acquired by its Antarctic scientists and scientific production are factors that can favour a greater involvement.
However, in order to face the described challenges seems necessary that Brazil overcome its internal limitations, altering significantly its Antarctic policy in order to update it to the present times and needs. In a merely preliminary base, some measures that need to be studied are:
- Strengthen the funding of its scientific program through specific predefined funding and long-term programs.
- Reviewing the Antarctic Strategic Plan and establishing more efficient mechanisms for its management and funding.
- Enforcing the already existent structures for Antarctic policy decision-making through the training of officials, the creation of incentives and the creation of a specialized division within the minister of Foreign Relations or any other institutional setting that could be created for such specific role.
- Supporting the creation of centres specialized in Antarctic politics and the training of specialists in that area.
- Use Brazil’s links with China as commercial partner and member of BRICS as a way to operate as intermediary and facilitator between the other ATS parties and China, reducing uncertainties about China’s intentions. That could include promoting closer scientific cooperation between the two countries or even within the framework of the BRICS.
- Use Brazil’s regional partnerships such as MERCOSUR and the already existent Antarctic regional interfaces such as the RAPAL in the search for join programs that can enforce the regional presence and distribute costs.
In conclusion, what is needed for Brazil’s Antarctic future is a better planed and managed funding, a better informed political decision-making and the definition of clear and updated political goals. In brief, a better-defined vision for Brazil’s role in Antarctica.
 The year 2012 marked the end of a relative long period characterized by the absence of incidents. Along with the fire, in 2012 there were a sank of a fuel transport raft and a Brazilian flag tourist motorboat. Just two years afterwards, in 2014, the Brazilian Air Force C-130 that was operating between Punta Arenas and Antarctica had an accident when landing, leaving the aircraft inoperable. Eventually, all remains of such accidents were successfully removed in accord with the environmental provisions of the ATS and at a considerable cost.
 Brazil adhered to the Antarctic Treaty in 1975 and had it first Antarctic expedition in 1982, becoming a member of the ATS in 1983. Jointly with India, it was the 3/4 party to be accepted with consultative status afterwards the Treaty original signature.
 We are referring to the Divisão do Mar, da Antártida e do Espaço Exterior (DMAE) usually in charge of a single person and with high rotativity.
 Brazilian scientists have acquired a prominent place within Antarctic science and occupied relevant places on international Antarctic institutions. That is the case with the former exercise of the SCAR presidency by the geologist Rocha-Campos; the present exercise of the vice-presidency of the SCAR by the glaciologist Jefferson Simões and the Presidency of the CCAMLR by the late biologist Edith Fanta.
 Brazilian definition of policy for Antarctica POLANTAR date from 1987 and it is almost identical to a preliminary version elaborated in 1975.
 The RAPAL is the Annual Meeting of Administrators of Latin-American Antarctic Programs.