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The Biden plan for Brazil and Latin America

. Oct 19, 2020
Joe Biden Donald Trump Joe Biden during the first U.S. presidential debate. Photo: StratosBril/Shutterstock

The closer we get to the U.S. election, the clearer the picture of a Joe Biden win over President Donald Trump becomes. On Friday, news website Axios reported that even Mr. Trump’s senior advisers seem to be resigned to a possible landslide defeat. And while Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro continues to throw his full weight behind Mr. Trump, members of his administration are already trying to build bridges and work out what life will be like under a Biden administration.


One senior official who operates as a liaison between the Brazilian government and the U.S. political establishment, who requested not to be named, spoke with The Brazilian Report about what the Bolsonaro administration expects for the country’s (and Latin America’s) relations with the U.S. for 2021 and beyond. 

He has exchanged several messages with Biden staffers, and shared his knowledge with us. Here are the main takes:

</p> <ul><li><strong>Revisiting the Monroe doctrine.</strong> As Vice President, Joe Biden visited Latin America 16 times, and believes that the region has been neglected by Donald Trump. (While that is a fair assessment, the truth is that the Obama administration — under which Mr. Biden served as VP — did not pay much attention to the countries south of Rio Grande, either.) According to our source, Mr. Biden has said that the U.S. made a mistake in letting <a href="https://brazilian.report/opinion/2019/10/24/china-necessity-bolsonaro-brazil-not-choice/">China</a> — and, to some degree, Russia — take too much influence in the &#8221; <a href="https://brazilian.report/power/2018/07/30/donald-trump-brazil-u-s-relations/">vacuum</a>&#8221; of leadership and <a href="https://brazilian.report/latin-america/2019/11/23/latin-america-boom-bust-frustrations/">investments</a> left by the Americans.</li><li><strong>Venezuela.</strong> Despite Mr. Biden&#8217;s track record as a military hawk, the Biden campaign told Brazilian officials that he plans a dovish course of action <a href="https://brazilian.report/power/2020/07/14/trump-biden-election-us-presidency-mean-bolsonaro/">regarding Venezuela</a>. The Democrat would lift sanctions on Caracas as a means of facilitating the entry of humanitarian aid into the country (last year, a <a href="https://brazilian.report/power/2019/02/23/humanitarian-aid-venezuela-crisis/">Trump-backed aid plan escalated tensions</a>). Moreover, Mr. Biden plans to open channels with opposition leaders other than Juan Guaidó, the former head of the National Assembly who led a botched coup last year — and was <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tOibfOxrbd4">praised by Mr. Trump during a State of the Union address</a>.</li><li><strong>Cuba.</strong> Joe Biden plans to resume the Obama plan of rapprochement with Cuba — providing &#8220;the human rights issue&#8221; is resolved and a path towards democracy seems clearer. Under Donald Trump, the U.S. has gone heavier on economic sanctions, even <a href="https://brazilian.report/latin-america/2020/07/24/cuba-has-beaten-the-pandemic-but-is-getting-beaten-by-sanctions/">blocking Cuba from getting much-needed medical supplies</a> amid the Covid-19 pandemic. As recently as September, Mr. Trump banned American citizens from taking home <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-cuba/trump-imposes-new-bans-on-cuban-rum-cigars-hotels-idUSKCN26E2OL">Cuban rum or cigars</a> — and from staying in government-owned hotels on the island.</li><li><strong>Joe puts Jair in the corner.</strong> As international relations professor Carlos Gustavo Poggio told <strong>The Brazilian Report</strong>, &#8220;the Bolsonaro administration is more aligned with the Trump White House than the U.S. per se.&#8221; A Biden administration would &#8220;wait for a gesture from Brasília,&#8221; without which relations would remain cold. &#8220;While the Democrats don&#8217;t disregard Brazil,&#8221; Latin America&#8217;s biggest country is not deemed as a <a href="https://brazilian.report/business/2020/10/15/brazil-trade-with-u-s-sees-worst-result-in-11-years/">trading partner that is important enough</a> &#8220;to force Mr. Biden into stomaching Mr. Bolsonaro.&#8221;</li><li><strong>Amazon.</strong> The biggest beef between a Biden administration and the Brazilian government shall, unsurprisingly, revolve around deforestation of the Amazon rainforest. While Joe Biden has <a href="https://theintercept.com/2020/08/07/joe-biden-climate-policy-advisers/">refrained himself</a> from taking up positions on climate change that may ruffle feathers among big business (being criticized by many on the left for doing so), bashing Jair Bolsonaro for his laissez-faire stance on the environment is a safe space for world leaders.</li><li><strong>U.S. Embassy.</strong> Career diplomat <a href="https://brazilian.report/newsletters/brazil-daily/2019/10/01/agribusiness-threat-superbug-brazilian-herds-us-ambassador/">Todd Chapman</a> — who has served as ambassador to Brasília since March — could be removed from his post. Mr. Chapman — who is fluent in Portuguese and has prior experience in Brazil — has positive relations with President Bolsonaro, even hosting him at the U.S. Embassy during <a href="https://brazilian.report/coronavirus-brazil-live-blog/2020/07/07/president-bolsonaro-might-have-exposed-covid-19/">Fourth of July celebrations this year</a>.

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Débora Álvares

Débora Álvares has worked as a political reporter for newspapers Folha de S.Paulo, O Estado de S.Paulo, Globo News, HuffPost, among others. She specializes in reporting on Brasilia, working behind-the-scenes coverage at the Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary branches of government.

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