Biden must cut ties with Bolsonaro, say experts

. Feb 23, 2021
biden bolsonaro united states Jair Bolsonaro during his 2019 White House visit. Photo: Alan Santos/PR

That U.S. President Joe Biden’s arrival in the White House was not well received by Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro is an understatement. And this enmity works both ways. A group of NGOs and experts from major U.S. universities submitted a 31-page document to the Biden White House, suggesting that it cut all agreements, negotiations, and political and economic alliances with Mr. Bolsonaro.

Indeed, there is much to undo. Since being sworn in as president in January 2019, President Bolsonaro embarked on an international relations U-turn, transforming the country’s foreign policy into an exclusively pro-Washington platform.

Brazil began siding with the U.S. on Venezuela, as well as pulling out of the United Nations migration pact, supporting Israel in international decisions, and abdicating from a number of multilateral organizations.</p> <p>This shift came about as a result of Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s admiration for former U.S. President Donald Trump. And after Mr. Biden&#8217;s election, the Brazilian head of state was left isolated.</p> <h2>Experts warn Biden about Bolsonaro</h2> <p>The damning white paper, entitled &#8220;Recommendations on Brazil to President Biden and the New Administration,&#8221; is prepared by the U.S. Network for Democracy in Brazil and goes into detail on a number of policy issues implemented by Mr. Bolsonaro which have &#8220;caused enduring harm to the people and the environment of Brazil and, consequently, to the region and the world.&#8221;</p> <p>Addressing topics such as democracy and the rule of law, the Covid-19 pandemic, religious freedom, and labor, the authors argue how Brazil has regressed in each of these areas since Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s election in 2018.</p> <iframe src="" width="100%" height="232" frameborder="0" allowtransparency="true" allow="encrypted-media"></iframe> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <p>The report is particularly condemning with regard to climate change, claiming that President Bolsonaro&#8217;s failure to enforce environmental protections led to increased deforestation and last year&#8217;s fires that destroyed 27 percent of the <a href="">Pantanal</a> wetland.</p> <p>“The objective is basically to influence the Joe Biden administration to rethink relations with Brazil after the Trump-Bolsonaro era, that is, to readjust U.S foreign policy towards Brazil,&#8221; explains James Green, Latin American history professor at Brown University and one of the report&#8217;s authors. &#8220;As experts in Brazil, we’re working close to people inside U.S. Congress to make them aware of the Brazil-U.S. scenario left by the Donald Trump administration.”&nbsp;</p> <iframe src="" width="100%" height="232" frameborder="0" allowtransparency="true" allow="encrypted-media"></iframe> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>Mounting pressure to ditch Bolsonaro</h2> <p>This is not the first instance of U.S. pressure against the White House&#8217;s ties to President Bolsonaro. In June 2020, 24 Democrats from the U.S. Congressional Committee on Ways and Means addressed Congress voicing their <a href="">opposition to any kind bilateral deal</a> with the current Brazilian government.</p> <p>In terms of his relationship with the U.S., things went downhill for Mr. Bolsonaro since then. Donald Trump&#8217;s election defeat saw the Democrats take control of both the White House and Congress. President Bolsonaro and his supporters voiced unproven theories of election fraud on social media, and the Brazilian president was the last major leader to congratulate <a href="">Joe Biden</a> on his victory.&nbsp;</p> <p>Now, Mr. Bolsonaro has lost his friends in U.S. government and it appears too late to mend fences. However, Mr. Green does not believe that pressure will change the way the Brazilian president sees politics, especially in international terms. In his view, the radical change needs to come from within the White House.</p> <p>“I do not expect changes from the Brazilian side. Our intention, as we are based in the U.S. and have an insider&#8217;s view, is to open the eyes of U.S. decision-makers. With Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s radical and exaggerated politics, the current moment demands changes to future dialogues. We expect that things will change in Brazil with that support.”

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Lucas Berti

Lucas Berti covers international affairs — specialized in Latin American politics and markets. He has been published by Opera Mundi, Revista VIP, and The Intercept Brasil, among others.

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