• presidental power;
  • Latin America;
  • foreign policy;
  • inter-governmental cooperation;
  • energy security

This paper concerns the growing importance of the executive to the foreign policies of Brazil and Venezuela. Exploring the implications of this trend, it examines the extent to which the concentration of power in the presidency—rather than its diffusion in institutions—facilitates the steering tasks of government in an interstate setting. It focuses on the issue of energy security—a theme integral to both states—so as to tell a larger story about the role of the executive in promoting cooperation in spite of the different policy trajectories pursued by the respective foreign ministries. It concludes that while the concentration of power is beneficial to the monitoring of and intervention into the cooperation process so as to push it forward, in the absence of a strong institutional backdrop, the longevity of such cooperation is likely to be limited.