Bolsonaro sheds crocodile tears for Trump. Don’t cry for him, Brazil

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL November 23, 2020

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s public truculence about dealing with a new US president who is not Donald Trump raises a pertinent question: What did Mr Trump ever do for Brazil?

Peter Hakim has an excellent blog on US-Brazil relations, which underlines the showy nature of the relationship between Mr Trump and Mr Bolsonaro and the pitiful gains it has produced for their countries.

In essence, both portray themselves as macho.

Both are prone to strongmen words and gestures.

Both spew a hateful nationalist rhetoric.

Both distrust multilateral institutions, are sceptical about climate change, globalization and the need to pro-actively deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

Both claim to champion law and order.

Finally, both Mr Trump and Mr Bolsonaro show little respect for women’s rights, the LGBT community and other minority groups.

This has allowed for several bilateral acts of symbolic significance.

Mr Trump and Mr Bolsonaro have declared that their two nations should “stand side-by-side” as “regional leaders of the Americas”.

Mr Trump hosted an official visit by Mr Bolsonaro – the latter’s first as president – which broke Brazil’s tradition of sending newly elected presidents to neighbouring Argentina for their inaugural foreign trip.

Mr Bolsonaro ended his Washington visit by sketching out his vision for a bold new US-Brazil cultural compact, which would work “to ensure liberties and respect to traditional family lifestyles, and respect to God…against gender ideology…and fake news”.

The mutual back-scratching presumably flattered the egos of two men whose divisive rhetoric and illiberalism appears to serve a self-aggrandising agenda.

In real terms, what did the Trump-Bolsonaro lovefest do?

In real terms? Zero. Absolutely nothing.

Nothing to deepen and strengthen bilateral relations.

As Mr Hakim points out, both countries “have not come close to negotiating a single major economic pact for more than 30 years – while 11 other Latin American nations have signed onto ambitious free trade agreements with the US”.

In fact, it was President Obama rather than Mr Trump who visited Brazil in 2011, taking along with him more than 50 leading CEOs of large American companies. It was a statement of economic purpose but not much came of that.

With the Trump administration, Brazil didn’t even get that.

Now, Mr Bolsonaro may shed crocodile tears for Mr Trump’s impending departure from the White House.

Brazil shouldn’t cry for him.