By Alexander Santana
Last week President Donald
Elected in October 2018 to lead the largest nation in Latin America with 55 percent of the vote, Bolsonaro has been nicknamed the “Trump of the Tropics.” The right-wing former military captain and federal deputy for the state of Rio de Janeiro was seen as an outsider who challenged the leftist policies of Brazil’s recent leaders such as Dilma Rousseff and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of the center-left Workers’ Party.
Bolsonaro also promised to rid his country of corruption and violence which has plagued the world’s fifth most populous nation for decades. Surrounding the tense 2018 election was the fact that Rousseff had been impeached and removed from the presidency in 2016 and da Silva had been sentenced to 12 years in prison for money laundering and corruption. A few days after the visit to the White House it was announced that Bolsonaro’s predecessor, Michel Temer, had been arrested as part of an ongoing corruption probe known as Operation Carwash.
Shortly after the two world leaders met, the White House announced in a joint statement a number of agreements had been made regarding trade, immigration, and hemispheric security. President Trump stated the United States would work to designate Brazil as a Major Non-NATO ally. The White House also announced that the U.S. would support Brazil’s efforts to become a full member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Both leaders agreed to create the United States-Brazil Energy Forum and the Biodiversity Impact Investment Fund for the Brazilian Amazon. The fund would support businesses that promote forest and biodiversity conservation.
Trump and Bolsonaro also agreed to continue cooperating in combating drug trafficking, money laundering, and terrorism through the United States-Brazil Security Forum. Bolsonaro stated that Brazil would exempt Americans from tourist visa requirements and in return the U.S. would strive to allow Brazil to be a part of the Department of Homeland Security’s Trusted Traveler Global Entry Program.
As the country with the world’s eighth largest GDP, Brazil agreed to import annually over 750 thousand tons of American wheat at zero rate. The U.S. also agreed to have the federal Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service visit Brazil to audit the country’s raw beef inspection system so Brazil could resume exporting its beef.
The topic of the crisis in Venezuela also came up during discussions in the Oval Office and at the joint press conference.
“So for as much as it is possible for us to do together to sort out the issue of the Venezuelan dictatorship, Brazil will be more than willing and ready to fulfill this mission and take freedom and democracy to that country, which up until recently was one of the wealthiest countries in South America” stated Bolsonaro. “It’s something terrible that’s going on in there. And we need to put an end to this issue, which is pervasive to the whole wide world” he added.
When asked about U.S. military intervention in Venezuela to remove Nicolas Maduro from power in favor of the United States’ recognized interim president and National Assembly President, Juan Guaidó, Trump stated that “all options are open. I think of all possibilities. We’ll see what happens.”
On March 22nd, Trump hosted the leaders of five Caribbean nations at his Palm Beach, Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago. The leaders primarily discussed trade, economic investment, and the crisis in Venezuela. The U.S. committed having members of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation visit each country in the future to expand economic development in the region.
“It’s absolutely important that it’s not just talk, that there will be real investments; investments that will benefit the region and benefit your country as well,” stated Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness. “The message from this meeting was that the United States wants to encourage and promote a stronger relationship with the region,”
“It’s been a really long time since leaders of the region have been invited to meet with the president of the United States of America and we think this is the beginning of a much broader initiative by America to the Caribbean,” said Saint Lucia’s Prime Minister Allen Chastanet. “This meeting was really about President Trump’s vision to re-initiate dialogue with the Caribbean” he added. According to Chastanet the last American President to engage with Saint Lucia like Trump was Ronald Reagan during the 1980s.
The five Caribbean leaders also spoke with Trump about the crisis in Venezuela and each leader supported a recent Organization of American States’ resolution not recognizing the second term of Maduro when it began in January. A few weeks later, countries such as Haiti, the Bahamas, and the Dominican Republic chose to recognize opposition leader Guaidó.
“I think we all recognize there’s a problem in Venezuela” stated Saint Lucia’s Chastanet. “Most people recognize the need for new elections. The world remains divided on that. I think there is a growing consensus that there needs to be fresh elections in Venezuela to resolve the humanitarian crisis.”
Experts on Latin America and U.S.-Brazil relations argue the relationship will grow closer since Trump and Bolsonaro share similar views on economic and national security matters.