Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro visited Washington D.C. earlier this week to participate in trade negotiations between the two countries and cozy up to the Trump administration. Many major publications reported on President Bolsonaro’s far-right, cringeworthy pledge to “stand side by side [with the U.S.] in their efforts to ensure liberties and respect to traditional family lifestyles, respect to God our creator against the gender ideology or the politically correct attitudes, and against fake news.”
Bolsonaro has contended that his unapologetic incendiary remarks on marginalized groups have simply been taken out of context by liberal Brazilian mainstream media. Unsurprisingly, the Brazilian president’s pledge to quash “fake news” was later that day praised by President Trump, who has been charmed by Bolsonaro’s lavish pro-Trump, pro-America rhetoric. “They say he’s the Donald Trump of South America,” President Trump said in January. “Do you believe that? And he’s happy with that. If he wasn’t, I wouldn’t like the country so much. But I like him.”
At the negotiations, Brazil acquiesced to a few items on Trump’s wish list, including a visa waiver for U.S. citizens traveling to the country for either tourism or business. As of this summer, U.S. citizens will no longer need to apply for a 10-year visa to enter the country. Brazil also waived travel visas for Canada, Japan, and Australia. In doing so, the current administration hopes to nearly double the number of tourists that enter the country annually in the coming years. Meanwhile, the U.S. failed to concede to any of Bolsonaro’s demands, including lifting a U.S. ban on fresh Brazilian beef; the most recent ban was put into place because of public health concerns following reports that meat companies had been bribing health officials to avoid inspections, shutdowns, and fines. Bolsonaro and his administration have been itching to ramp up deforestation efforts in the Amazon to expand industrial agriculture, even at the expense of protected indigenous land.
A Brazilian official told Reuters that the negotiations seemed to be a one-sided deal. “If this is the way forward, we might as well stay put. [The Trump Administration] asked for everything, but didn’t want to cede on anything.”
This won’t play well to a Brazilian public whose support for Bolsonaro has soured since his election. Another piece in Reuters cited a survey that suggested Bolsonaro is having the worst start in modern Brazilian history, in terms of his approval ratings. A quarter of the survey participants believe he is doing a bad or terrible job as president, while just a third of them feel he is doing good or great; the latter figure is a sharp drop in approval compared to the 49 percent “great/good” rating he received shortly after his inauguration.