Rhetorically in Tandem: The Bright Future of U.S and Brazilian Foreign Relations

Gwynn Magnan, Writer on American Affairs

29 November, 2018

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and U.S. President Donald J. Trump

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and U.S. President Donald J. Trump


Historically speaking, the United States and Brazil have never been the most warm of companions. The US and Brazil, the two largest economies and the two largest democracies in the Western Hemisphere, have shared one of the most important trade and economic relationships in the world. For decades, the US encouraged Brazil to join a free trade agreement in the Americas, with Brazil promptly rejecting Washington as it viewed such promises as an impediment to the creation of a more autonomous regional South American bloc. Although the US is Brazil’s third-largest trade partner, Brazil has generally run trade deficits with the United States. Brazilian-US ties worsened in 2013, once documents leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden revealed that the US had conducted electronic surveillance against then-President Dilma Rousseff.

However, Brazilian voters may have ultimately put an end to such tension through the election of Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right politician whose striking similarities to President Donald Trump are echoed in his temperament, tactics and style. Mr. Bolsonaro’s enthusiastic desire for stronger relations with the US is among the bluntest signs that Brazilian foreign policy will undergo forcible change. The Trump administration has expressed hopes that an increasing number of conservative heads of state in Latin America will aid the US in undermining the leftist governments of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, which Trump’s national security advisor, John R. Bolton, deemed “the troika of tyranny in this hemisphere”. Such action has already begun, as Cuba announced that they would be recalling more than 8,000 doctors deployed to remote regions of Brazil after Mr. Bolsonaro accused the communist party of treating their health professionals “like slaves”.

For many, however, Bolsonaro’s foreign companions occupy minimal importance, as much like Trump, Bolsonaro has faced countless controversies throughout his candidacy and presidency-elect. Many people in Brazil find it difficult to even utter the politicians name. Remarks made by the President such as, “I am not going to rape you, because you are very ugly” which was made to a female representative in Congress, and “I would rather have my son die in a car accident than have him show up dating some guy”, exemplify such disgust towards the President. Bolsonaro also dedicated much of his platform to “the memory of colonel Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra”, one of the most sadistic torturers and murders in the military dictatorship that choked Brazil between 1964 and 1985.

Moreover, the era of Donald Trump and his citizens should show no surprise over such similarities, as well as over the desire for a sudden surge of Brazilian and US relations. As soon as Trump was elected, the world’s authoritarians took notice. Spawning from recent statements, the President expressed what an honour it had been to have met with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, as well as gave invitation to Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte to visit the White House. Furthermore, Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who previously orchestrated a constitutional referendum that allowed him to stay in power for the next dozen years, was congratulated by Trump. Such a vote was widely criticized by human rights activists as a key pinnacle in the disappearance of Turkish democracy. From Vladimir Putin to Egypt's General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Trump has placed great emphasis on creating peaceful and friendly relationships with authoritarian foreign rulers. The challenge in this case is knowing whether these relationships come from strategy, as Trump has been incapable of formally articulating a foreign policy approach, let alone a strategy.

This poses a grim future for Brazilian society and today’s world, whereby saying everything and anything, no matter how violent and hideous the connotations, Bolsonaro is labeled as truthful or sincere. Such an example, following from eerily similar reactions of Trump supporters whom commend Trump for his “blatant honesty”, poses dangerous for the future of international politics. Although the former tension in foreign relations between two of the largest trade powers is now being resolved, it is the social consequences of such victories that should remain as the critical outcome of such newfound neighbourly affiliations.