U.S.’s Bolton to meet far-right Brazilian leader Bolsonaro

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton will visit Brazil’s far-right President-elect Jair Bolsonaro on Thursday to discuss regional security issues and build on the ideological affinity between the two leaders.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., November 27, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

Bolsonaro is an admirer of the American president and, like Trump, took the political establishment by surprise when he won office in October riding a wave of anger against traditional politicians.

He has vowed to sweep out corruption, crack down on crime and align Brazil closely with the United States in a shift toward conservative nationalism.

His transition team said the meeting with Bolton at Bolsonaro’s Rio de Janeiro home will also be attended by his future defense minister, retired general Fernando Azevedo, and incoming foreign minister Ernesto Araujo, an anti-globalist who believes climate change theory is a Marxist invention.

Bolsonaro has threatened to follow Trump’s lead and pull Brazil out of the Paris climate agreement, despite having the world’s biggest rain forest in the Amazon. On Wednesday, he said he pushed the government to withdraw Brazil’s offer to host the United Nations climate conference next year, maintaining that Brazil’s sovereignty over the Amazon was at stake.

Bolton told reporters on Tuesday in Washington that Bolsonaro’s election was a “historic opportunity” for Brazil and the United States to work together on security, economics and other issues. Thursday’s meeting would prepare the ground for Trump and Bolsonaro to “get off to a running start,” he said.

Bolton is expected to seek Brazilian support to apply pressure to Venezuela’s left-wing government, which he describes as part of “the troika of tyranny” in the Americas, alongside Cuba and Nicaragua.

There is speculation Bolsonaro’s team will seek to bring Trump to the presidential inauguration in Brasilia on Jan. 1.

While Trump’s attendance would be a major validation for Bolsonaro, Thiago de Aragao, a risk analyst and partner at Brasilia consultancy ARKO, said it is unlikely to happen.

“Ideological affinity is not enough to have the level of relationship Bolsonaro seeks. Trump has made it clear that he wants direct commercial benefits for the United States in its foreign ties,” he said.

Battling a wide budget deficit as it recovers from a deep recession, Brazil cannot afford to buy billions of dollars in U.S.-made arms, for example.

There could be convergence on Venezuela, but Brazil would never agree to military action against its neighbor and could at most agree to apply sanctions, Aragao said.

Reporting by Anthony Boadle and Rodrigo Viga Gaier; Editing by Sam Holmes

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