Brazil's President-elect Jair Bolsonaro makes no secret of his admiration for Trump
President Trump was among the first to congratulate former military commander Jair Bolsonaro after his victory in Brazilâs presidential election Oct. 28.
The election placed Bolsonaro, who takes office Jan. 1, in position to become the most far-right leader to rule the second-largest country in the hemisphere since its return to democracy a generation ago.Advertisement
During his campaign, Bolsonaro made no secret of his admiration for Trump. He often seemed to be reading from the same script. He said he would pull Brazil out of the Paris climate accord â" long championed by the Amazon nation â" as Trump did with the United States. He promised to move Brazilâs Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which Trump did with the U.S. Embassy.
In the campaign and in his more than 20 years as a member of parliament, Bolsonaro insu lted and disparaged opponents, women, people of color and gays and lesbians. He once told a female legislator she was âtoo uglyâ to rape. He advocates arming more citizens against crime and allowing police to shoot first, ask questions later.
Like Trump, some of his closest advisors are his equally provocative sons.
And like Trump, Bolsonaro was chosen by a highly polarized electorate amid rampant disinformation and misinformation campaigns, according to the Atlantic Councilâs Digital Forensic Research Lab, which monitored the campaign and vote.
Still, to some it seemed unusual that Trump would so enthusiastically welcome Bolsonaroâs election given the controversy surrounding him.
âHad a very good conversation with the newly elected President of Brazil,â Trump tweeted Oct. 29. âWe agreed that Brazil and the United States will work closely together on Trade, Military and everything else! Excellent call, wished him congr ats!â
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said the two men pledged to work âside by side.â
National security advisor John Bolton praised Bolsonaro as a âlike-minded partnerâ whose election was among positive signs for the region. A senior administration official who briefed reporters said Trump felt like he âshared values and prioritiesââ with Bolsonaro.
One explanation for the fawning is that Bolsonaro unseated a leftist party that had won nearly all of Brazilâs recent elections; a right-wing government with free-market tendencies is certain to be more welcomed in Washington.
The administration also is probably hoping the Bolsonaro government will provide a stronger counter-balance to neighboring Venezuela, where a socialist government has helped plunge the population into economic and political chaos and triggered a massive exodus.
Trump has taken aim at Venezuela, levying sanctions and c alling on the government to step down. One administration official even floated the idea of a military intervention, a cause dismissed by most but taken up by hawkish Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who wields outsize influence over Trumpâs foreign policy in Latin America. Many South American countries have also protested Venezuelaâs trampling of democracy, but Brazil was a major holdout.
Apparently hoping to gain access to Trumpâs inner circle, Bolsonaro and his team sought support from Stephen K. Bannon, the former senior advisor to Trump who is often considered the mastermind behind the real estate magnateâs unlikely victory in 2016.
Brazilian analysts said Bannonâs brand of fiery, racially tinged right-wing nationalism, which he has been hawking in Europe and elsewhere, fit in with Bolsonaroâs own viewpoints and style.
Bannon told a conference in Toronto in May that it was no coincidence in his view that as the German leader Angela Merkel, a champion of the Western liberalism Bannon seems to despise, was being forced out of power, Bolsonaro was reaching the pinnacle of his own countryâs leadership.Advertisement
âBolsonaroâs team was enamored of the idea of getting into the inner sphere of Trump,â said Shannon OâNeil, an expert on Latin America and a vice president at the Council on Foreign Relations. âThey definitely have an affinity for Trump and how he does things and have an interest in emulating his styleâ â" as well as the substance.
Whether a real change is coming in relations between Washington and Brasilia, apart from the cosmetics, remains unclear. Both Trumpâs United States, and Brazil traditionally, are inward-looking countries.
But Bolsonaro appears more intent than his predecessors on building ties with the United States. The two are the largest economies in the hemisphere, but Brazil is only the United Statesâ 12th trading partner in goods. U.S. good s and services trade with Brazil totaled an estimated $100.3 billion in 2017.
âThe U.S. would benefit from continued engagement with Brazil in areas of trade and commerce, as well as in areas of regional security to address pressing issues in the hemisphere, including the crisis in Venezuela,â said Roberta Braga, associate director of the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center at the Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank.
Like many in formerly predominantly Catholic Brazil, Bolsonaro is also a fervent member of the evangelical Christian church, which is socially conservative and pro-Israel, attitudes that also align him with Trump.
Nevertheless, he has had to back down from some of his campaign promises. In the face of public outcry, he said he would remain inside the Paris climate accord, after all. And, with beef exports to the Arab world a huge source of national income, he has also reversed himself on relocating the Brazilian Embassy to Jerusal em, a move that would have angered those trading partners.
In the end, said Paulo Sotero, head of the Brazil Institute at the nonpartisan Wilson Center think tank, Bolsonaro âunderstands that the very divisive rhetoric will not help him govern.âSource: Google News South Brazil | Netizen 24 Brazil