Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is often described as the Latin American Trump, an identification that Trump himself seemed to endorse in today’s press conference. “We have many views that are similar,” Trump enthused. The President was so pleased that he suggested, in a bizarre off-the-cuff remark, that Brazil might possibly become “a NATO ally.”
Trump added that he was talking about Brazilian NATO membership with “a lot of people.” Trump concluded by congratulating Bolsonaro on “doing a fantastic job. You’ve brought the country together.”
Bolsonaro also emphasized the commonalities with Trump, saying, “May I say that Brazil and the United States stand side by side in their efforts to ensure liberties in respect to traditional family lifestyles, respect to God, our creator, against the gender ideology or politically correct attitudes and against fake news.” One shared value that the two leaders affirmed was the idea that a military option might be necessary in Venezuela, an opinion widely rejected by other countries in the Western hemisphere.
Trump’s effusions are, of course, not surprising. The American President has a long history of going fan boy whenever he meets an authoritarian or dictator, as we’ve seen in his meetings with the leaders of China, Russia and North Korea. Still, it’s worth remembering who Bolsonaro is and why it is shameful for an American president to embrace such a figure.
In The London Review of Books, historian Perry Anderson recently ran down a list of the Brazilian President’s extremist views: Bolsonaro “has extolled his country’s most notorious torturer; declared that its military dictatorship should have shot thirty thousand opponents; told a congresswoman she was too ugly to merit raping; announced he would rather a son killed in a car accident than gay; declared open season on the Amazon rainforest; not least, on the day after his election, promised followers to rid the land of red riff-raff.”