Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has long been called the ‘Trump of the Tropics’, and he views such comparisons as a compliment. Since taking office in January, Bolsonaro has made clear his desire to get closer to the United States.
But what does this re-positioning mean for Brazil’s relations with the rest of the world? CGTN’s Paulo Cabral takes a closer look.
Bolsonaro made no secret of his admiration for the United States and its president, Donald Trump, which was on display when the two met at the White House in March.
In Brazil’s foreign policy, this has translated into a close alignment between the two countries on various international issues, from the political crisis in Venezuela to Brazil’s support of US sanctions against Iran, which includes a refusal to refuel Iranian ships in Brazilian waters.
Bolsonaro is stoking controversy in a current campaign to appoint his son, Eduardo Bolsonaro, to be Brazil’s ambassador to the US, based in part on his good relations with the Trump family.
The decision has been widely criticized even within the president’s ranks and risks a veto from Brazil’s Senate.
Vinicius Vieira, Professor of International Relations from the University of Sao Paulo, calls what we’re seeing a case of ‘automatic alignment’ with the U.S. – and said there is danger in such an approach.
“Presidents, they do have ideological affinities with each other. However a nation’s foreign policy, particularly a nation like Brazil which is a major player in the world shouldn’t be shaped by the interests only of the current government but by long term interests,” said Vieira. “And historically Brazil is what we call a pivot state. A state like South Africa, Turkey, India It has a lot to sell so it can bargain hard.”
Former Brazilian Ambassador to the U.S. Rubens Barbosa said he fears the impact of ideology in the country’s foreign policy.
“I was ambassador to the United States. When I was there, the United States was priority. I received instructions from the presidents Cardoso and Lula to give all priority to the bilateral relationship,” said Barbosa. “So it’s not new to have a priority now. The difference is the ideological emphasis.”
President Jair Bolsonaro’s administration has made a very clear ideological choice on its foreign policy, which includes a close relationship with countries like Israel, Hungary and the United States.
But the question is will this negatively impact Brazil’s relationship with other important global players like China, the country’s main trade partner.
During his election campaign, Bolsonaro made a number of critical remarks against China, which raised concerns about the direction of ties between the two countries.
But Charles Tang, President of the Brazil-China Chamber of Commerce, predicts Bolsonaro’s planned visit to Beijing in October will help dispel any remaining discomfort.
“Since his campaign Bolsonaro has changed his views about China. He recognizes now that China is a strategic partner of Brazil and his acceptance to go to China is a very very good sign, because once he sees China he will return with a completely different mindset of what China means,” Tang said
President Bolsonaro’s views on foreign policy seem to depart from Brazil’s diplomatic tradition of neutrality And the world continues to watch and see how ideological shifts may impact Brazil’s global standing.