FAIRFAX COUNTY, VIRGINIA — Brazil’s new fascist president, Jair Bolsonaro, touched down in Washington to pay homage at the CIA headquarters and to visit President Donald Trump, with whom he met on Tuesday. All reports are that the meeting between the two heads of state went very well — not surprisingly, given how similar their politics and personalities are. Bolsonaro shares Trump’s penchant for racist, xenophobic remarks, calling immigrants from poor countries “the scum of the earth,” and also has a history of strongly sexist statements.
“Brazil and the United States are tied by the guarantee of liberty, respect for the traditional family, the fear of God our creator, against gender identity, political correctness and fake news,” announced the new Brazilian president, who promises to fight against “cultural Marxism” – a far-right conspiracy theory that appears in Christchurch shooter Brenton Tarrant’s manifesto.
For his part, Trump was equally pleased with the meeting. “The relationship we have right now with Brazil has never been better,” he said.
Trump also revealed that he was in favor of Brazil joining NATO. “We’re looking at it very strongly,” he said, “We’re very inclined to do that.” The expansion of NATO deeper into South America rings alarm bells for all independent and non-aligned nations in the region and signals a huge change in Brazilian foreign policy. Brazil under the social-democratic Workers’ Party had been fiercely independent and non-interventionist, refusing to countenance American coups in the region, much to the chagrin of Washington. Former President and currently jailed political prisoner Lula da Silva called himself an anti-imperialist and an internationalist. However, the symbolic visit of the current head of state to Langley, Virginia confirms many of Bolsonaro’s opponents’ predictions that he would be a lapdog of the United States.
During Oval Office event with Bolsonaro, Trump says he's "looking very strongly" at granting Brazil NATO privileges.
"We have a great alliance with Brazil — better than we've ever had before," Trump adds. pic.twitter.com/E5yZUOJZhY
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 19, 2019
Bolsonaro’s first months in office have been highly controversial, as he has enacted policies further militarizing society, gutting already weak environmental regulations and dispossessing indigenous peoples from their land. Bolsonaro appointed University of Chicago-trained Paulo Guedes as his economics minister. Guedes was closely associated with fascist General Augusto Pinochet’s regime in Chile and proposes a “Pinochet style” solution for Brazil, featuring a highly unpopular austerity package that includes the privatization of the country’s pension system. Amidst an ongoing corruption scandal, Bolsonaro’s approval rating has already dropped to 39 percent, another experience he shares with Trump.
Three media cheers for the new fascist president
The U.S. media was very happy at Bolsonaro’s victory, with the Wall Street Journal editorial board endorsing him as a “credible” reformer and a much-needed “antidote” to the greed and corruption of the Workers’ Party. Bloomberg spelled out the reasons for this, explaining that his victory completed a U.S. clean sweep of South America, noting that the only holdout against U.S. power was now Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro, who may not cling to power much longer. It also noted Bolsonaro would be “extraordinarily pro-business.”
For Bloomberg, the election marked the end of the independence of Latin America and a return to the days when it was under total U.S. control. The media also backed the U.S.-sponsored coup against liberal President Joao Goulart in 1964 that brought about two decades of fascist military dictatorship. On Goulart, the New York Times’ editorial board wrote, “We do not lament the passing of a leader who had proved so incompetent and so irresponsible,” and claimed there was a “widespread feeling of deep relief and of optimism” among all of Brazil that he had been overthrown.
The U.S. overthrew a number of Latin American governments during the late 20th century — including Guatemala in 1953, Chile in 1973 and Grenada in 1983 — while propping up highly authoritarian right-wing dictatorships. Bolsonaro was an officer during the Brazilian military dictatorship, the only mistake of which, he claims, was that it did not kill enough of its political opponents.
Venezuela was a key issue in Bolsonaro’s visit, with the United States openly trying to complete its “clean sweep” of Latin America. Although completely hostile to Maduro, the Brazilian government has previously refused to countenance being part of a military effort to overthrow the Maduro government. However, if Brazil is granted NATO ally status, all of Venezuela’s borders would be with NATO regimes.
Trump, National Security Advisor John Bolton, and U.S. Envoy for Venezuela Elliot Abrams envision a region back under the complete control of Washington. Yet their schemes have not gone according to plan. While they expected a majority of the Venezuelan army to rebel, a maximum of 0.1 percent have done so. Furthermore, the large majority of the world’s nations have refused to recognize Washington’s hand-picked president, Juan Guaidó. In the light of this ongoing farce, Bolsonaro’s continued obsequious obedience to the Trump administration makes clear what he sees his role to be. If there was any doubt that he was a U.S. patsy, none should remain.
Top photo | President Donald Trump welcomes visiting Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to the White House, March 19, 2019, in Washington. Manuel Balce Ceneta | AP
Alan MacLeod is an academic and writer for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. His book, Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting was published in April.