Bolsonaro Visits The U.S.

16 hours ago
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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Brazil's president, Jair Bolsonaro, is arriving in the United States for his first official visit. On Tuesday, he'll meet with President Trump at the White House. The two men have a lot in common from their use of explosive social media posts, their disdain of climate science, their taunting of the media and their ethical scandals. Joining us now to talk about the new Brazil-U.S. relationship is The New York Times Brazil bureau chief, Ernesto Londono.

Welcome to the program.

ERNESTO LONDONO: Hey, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So before we begin with what Brazil and the U.S. hope to gain from this meeting, catch us up. Jair Bolsonaro is from the far right. How has he been governing Brazil?

LONDONO: Well, Lulu, he is off to a rocky start. Jair Bolsonaro campaigned on a promise to take on the status quo, to drain the swamp. But so far during his first weeks in office, he has been crippled by a series of scandals - some ethical, some legal, some involving his family, some involving members of his party. So you don't get a sense that he has been focused on governing and on making good on his promise. For much of his time in office so far, he has been on damage control.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. Well, let's get down to brass tacks. What is it that the Trump administration will likely ask Brazil for, specifically in relation to China and Venezuela, which is the other pressing issue in Latin America?

LONDONO: The Trump administration has taken a decidedly skeptical and, you know, fairly aggressive attitude toward China's intentions in the region. It has warned its allies in the region not to get any closer to China, saying that China is an exploitive partner at times and shouldn't be trusted as a dependable ally in the long run. Brazil, however, depends very heavily on Chinese imports. So it's unclear that the U.S. will have a huge amount of leverage of driving a wedge between Brazil and China. On Venezuela, I think other than rhetoric and other than, you know, than more pressure that can be delivered through sanctions or through any other measures, it's hard to see that they're going to be able to come up with something new and concrete to move the needle forward on Venezuela policy.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And what does Brazil want? And what can it expect to get - briefly - from this meeting?

LONDONO: Well, Brazil is expected to get a designation of becoming a key non-NATO military ally. This will be largely a symbolical designation. But I think it'll signal very clearly that Brazil in the Bolsonaro era wants to be seen in the world as very closely aligned to the United States. Brazil is also expected to formally announce that Americans will soon no longer need to obtain visas to visit the country. And this, Brazil hopes, it will boost its tourism industry, which has faced stiff competition from other countries in the region. And one final deal that the two countries have been negotiating and may be announced as something that has been sort of formally forged is giving American satellite - commercial satellite companies access to a base in northeastern Brazil that would significantly lower the costs of launching commercial satellites into space.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So just briefly, what is the view about how productive this meeting will actually be for both sides?

LONDONO: I think, you know, the alignment of two leaders who seem to be on the same page and who seem to admire each other personally a great deal at the very least gives you a framework to build on. And I think diplomats and officials in both governments who have long felt that this relationship could have been and should have been a lot closer are cautiously optimistic that we're looking at a bright era in U.S.-Brazilian relations.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: New York Times Brazil bureau chief Ernesto Londono, thank you very much.

LONDONO: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.