March 17, the Brazilian leader Jair Bolsonaro arrived in the US capital, where on March 19 he met with his American counterpart Donald Trump. The main goal of the trip was to strengthen the emerging conservative populist alliance, one of whose tasks is to increase pressure on Venezuela. From the moment of the election race, international analysts called Bolsonaro “South American Trump”. The new Brazilian leader has repeatedly noted that Brazil and the United States actually have many values, and also repeatedly expressed admiration for the President of the United States. What did Donald Trump agree with Jair Bolsonaro? What is the impetus for Brazilian-American relations to be able to make this visit?
The ultra-right leader flew out of Brasilia on March 17 along with six ministers, including the Minister of Foreign Affairs Ernesto Araújo (Port. – Ernesto Henrique Fraga Araújo), the Minister of Economy Paulo Guedes (Port. – Paulo Roberto Nunes Guedes) and the Minister of Justice Sérgio Moro (Port. – Sérgio Fernando Moro). By the way, the visit to Washington became the first foreign trip of Jair Bolsonaro (Port. – Jair Messias Bolsonaro) to participate in a bilateral meeting since his inauguration from January 1. In January, the Brazilian president attended the summit in Davos, Switzerland.
According to Brazilian media reports, on the eve of Bolsonaro’s departure, dozens of demonstrators held a protest against his visit to Washington. Indeed, according to supporters of the “left” wing, strengthening relations between Donald Trump (Eng. – Donald John Trump) and Bolsonaro would mean that the leaders of the two most populated democratic countries on the American continents will work closely on a number of regional issues. It is quite obvious that the most pressing of them is still the crisis in Venezuela, where the United States and Brazil, as well as their supporters in the informal association “Lima Group” (Spanish – Grupo de Lima), recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó (Spanish – Juan Gerardo Guaidó Márquez) as interim president of the country in order to remove Nicolás Maduro (Spanish – Nicolás Maduro Moros) from power.
It is worth remembering that Jair Bolsonaro since the beginning of his election campaign, “became famous” for his sharp rhetoric, repeatedly expressing his admiration for Trump. Like the leader of the White House, he neglects multilateral organizations and “left-wing” regimes, and in domestic policy he stands for business support, without taking into account the concerns of environmental organizations and criticism of extrasivism.
In turn, Trump very precisely explained why he gladly received a new ultra-right Brazilian leader in Washington. It’s so nice when “they love you, and even better when they imitate you”. In the opinion of Donald Trump, the current president of Brazil has already achieved outstanding success. According to Trump, Bolsonaro conducted a fruitful election campaign, which reminded the “master” of the White House of his own struggle as part of the election race.
It is worth recalling that Jair Bolsonaro won a populist wave of discontent with crime, corruption, and ineffective government, replacing the “left” government, which did not always seek to improve relations with Washington. During his election campaign, he declared the need for a radical change in such sentiments, repeatedly praised Trump and happily agreed when supporters compared him to the American president. It was during the pre-election race in Brazil in 2018 that international observers immediately “christened” the ultra-right candidate as “tropical” or “South American Trump”.
As a number of political consultants emphasizes, Bolsonaro managed to borrow a lot from Donald Trump’s strategy and working methods. The current Brazilian leader “demonizes” opponents, actively uses the social network Twitter and regularly recalls Trump’s words about “fake news”, criticizing media representatives for the unfair, as it seems to him, coverage of his political activities. By the way, the president of the United States became the first foreign leader to call Jair Bolsonaro after his victory in the October elections.
On Tuesday, March 19, Trump and Bolsonaro talked about new opportunities for developing partnerships after years of “anti-American” rule, as Bolsonaro said, the leadership of Brazil. The leaders of the two countries in a joint statement focused on such common goals as the expansion of trade, the development of military ties and the new agreement on the use by representatives of the United States of the Brazilian spaceport. Both presidents shared the opinion that Nicolás Maduro should give up power in Venezuela. However, Bolsonaro, like many members of the Lima Group, rules out force intervention, supporting a policy of dragging out the economic and diplomatic “loop” around the Maduro regime. Trump, on the other hand, has repeatedly stated that with regard to Venezuela, “no options for the development of events are not discarded”, and such a phrase can be taken as the possibility of military actions.
During the meeting, Donald Trump expressed his intention to bring the military partnership between the two countries to a level commensurate with the NATO membership (North Atlantic Treaty Organization). The leader of the White House also made the assumption that the transatlantic military alliance would soon accept Brazil into its ranks. Although this would require the consent of more than twenty European, mostly allies, among which even the less dramatic process of the NATO expansion within Europe caused a split.
Despite such a warm and friendly atmosphere that prevailed during Bolsonaro’s visit to Washington, international observers note a low degree of effectiveness. Brazil took concrete steps and concessions, but in return received only promises. This conclusion is made after reading the joint communique. By refusing the advantages that developing countries have in the World Trade Organization (WTO), Brazilians will lose many foreign trade preferences. And what will Brazil get in return? The statement that the United States will support the efforts of Bolsonaro to join the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development), where the advantages are quite abstract, as well as vague prospects for the expansion of the NATO.
Summing up the meeting of the two leaders, it is worth noting that maintaining friendly relations with the “master” of the White House has never been superfluous. At one time, Fernando Enrique Cardoso found a common language with Bill Clinton, and Lula da Silva forged friendly relations with George Bush Jr. (Eng. – George Walker Bush) and Barack Obama. Judging by this visit, Jair Bolsonaro managed to establish contact with Donald Trump. However, he somewhat “crossed” the border in his desire to show himself a “trampist”, expressing confidence in the re-election of the Republican in 2020. Another mistake of Bolsonaro was that he slandered his predecessors. In his opinion, all of them were opposed to the United States, and this is not at all true.
After returning to Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro plans to travel to Chile, and in late March, the Brazilian leader intends to make an official visit to Israel. After all, Bolsonaro managed to establish close ties with the conservative leader of Israel – the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Spanish – Benjamín “Bibi” Netanyahu), when he attended the inauguration of the Brazilian president.