BRASILIA, Brazil ( Associated Press) — US President Joe Biden became concerned that his Brazilian counterpart was going to skip this week’s summit in Los Angeles, so he sent a close adviser to personally invite Jair Bolsonaro. .
According to three of the cabinet ministers of the Brazilian leader, the gesture was met with demand.
Officials told the Associated Press that Bolsonaro said he would attend the US summit only if Biden allowed him a private meeting and refrained from confronting him over some of the most controversial issues between the two men.
Officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak, said they did not want any criticism over deforestation in the Amazon or warnings to question the credibility of Brazil’s electoral system. publically.
A spokeswoman for the US State Department did not address questions about the requested preconditions.
Whether or not Biden bites his tongue, the demand is reminiscent of the gulf between the two leaders as they prepare for their first face-to-face meeting, which was expected to be held Thursday by two ministers in Bolsonaro’s government. The White House did not say when the meeting would take place.
Bolsonaro’s presence at the summit may have helped Biden embarrass some of the leaders at the distance, partly due to the controversy that not all countries in the region are being invited to the summit, which has been held since the opening ceremony in 1994. It is being hosted by the US for the first time.
But Bolsonaro’s appearance could also be a source of friction. Ignoring Bolsonaro’s criticism of Brazil’s election system could be destabilizing for Biden, who has said promoting democratic institutions at home and abroad is a core part of his administration.
“I don’t think there’s a way around it,” said Ted Picon, a non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who works on Latin America issues. “If Biden doesn’t say anything about this issue, it will look bad for him and his democracy agenda in the region and at home.”
As a far-right ally of former President Donald Trump, Bolsonaro was among the world’s last heads of state To recognize Biden’s electoral victory. More recently, Bolsonaro accused Biden of betraying him At a summit of world leaders in Rome last year, he said: “He left as if I didn’t exist.”
While Biden ran for president two years ago, he criticized Brazil for increasing deforestation in the Amazon. After Biden took office, Bolsonaro’s administration acted to demonstrate commitment To curb destruction. Efforts included taking forward their pledges at the UN climate talks in Glasgow and regular bilateral meetings with US officials.
But those conversations stalled as Data kept deforestation going on. The most recent annual reading was the worst in 15 years.
“It’s really going in the wrong direction,” Picon said. “If Biden can get Bolsonaro to stop the loss, that would be a win.”
Brazil is the hemisphere’s second most populous democracy after the US, and Bolsonaro’s situation ahead of his election campaign has raised alarm at home and in Washington.
He will run against his political nemesis, the leftist former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. While Bolsonaro enjoys strong support among his base, preliminary polls say da Silva is leading well ahead of October’s election. The campaign officially begins in August, although both Bolsonaro and da Silva are already holding rallies.
Bolsonaro insists the elections do not reflect the true scope of his support, and he has sowed doubts about the electronic voting machines employed in every Brazilian election since 1996. He says the electoral authority lacks transparency and accuses some of its members of being biased against them. ,
Analysts and opposition lawmakers say they worry Bolsonaro is laying ground for rejecting the election results if he fails to secure a second term, and calling on supporters to support a tropical version of the US Capitol riot. Follow Trump’s example in encouraging He has repeatedly said that only God can remove him from the presidency.
“Democracy in the country is no longer just a domestic issue,” Luiz Edson Fachin, the chairman of the electoral authority, said in an interview with foreign correspondents on Tuesday. “Brazilian democracy is in the interest of Brazil but also South America, Latin America and all democracies in the world.”
At a meeting at the US embassy in Brasilia last July, CIA director William Burns told two of Bolsonaro’s ministers that the president should stop attacking the electoral system, said two officials who were present at the meeting and asked anonymity. Spoke on condition.
Brazil’s presidential palace did not respond to a request for comment about the duration of the Burns meeting. The CIA declined to comment.
Burns’ warning didn’t stop Bolsonaro from pushing Brazil to the brink of an institutional crisis, only two months later, when he rallied supporters to protest the Supreme Court and told the gathered public to heed the decisions of one of its judges. will not give. , In the end, he backed off, saying that his remarks came in the heat of the moment.
Months passed without any further attacks. Recently, however, he has returned to his heated rhetoric.
“If the need arises, we will go to war,” the president told the crowd during a speech in Paraná on Friday. “I want people by my side, to be aware of what they are doing and fighting for.”
“He keeps preparing for the coup,” Sen. Rennan Calheiros told the Associated Press over the phone. “Political parties need to be ready, support the Supreme Court which is the great wall of the country, and keep the institutions strong while attracting the attention of the world.”
Calheiros is one of eight senators participating in an informal monitoring group meeting this year to discuss Bolsonaro’s comments and the traction they have gained among civilians, police and the military. The group also includes Supreme Court justices and members of the electoral authority, Calheiros said.
Juan González, senior director of the National Security Council for the Western Hemisphere, told reporters on Wednesday that the US has confidence in Brazil’s electoral system.
But he did not say whether the issue would be raised when Biden and Bolsonaro have a bilateral meeting. He said he would address global topics, citing the prospects for food security, health security and economic actions in response to the pandemic.
Brazilian political analyst Thomas Truman said that if Biden does not push Bolsonaro to respect the election results, he risks legitimizing the Brazilian leader’s recent challenge.
“I only see the downside for Biden,” Truman, whose uncle was a top aide to Biden, said over the phone.
He added that America’s summit is supposed to promote democracy, “but Biden is going to be in a picture next to President Bolsonaro, and that doesn’t guarantee he’ll accept the election results.”
Bolsonaro, for his part, could use the meeting at home to face criticism that he is isolated internationally and lacks access to the US president, said Rubens Barbosa, a former Brazilian president, in Washington. Ambassador, who is the President of the Institute for International Relations and Foreign Affairs. Business, a think tank based in So Paulo.
Bolsonaro has not held many bilateral meetings in his three years as president. He met with Trump in 2019 and 2020 during visits to Washington and Mar-a-Lago, and in the weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine, Bolsonaro met Vladimir Putin in Moscow and later Hungarian leader Viktor Viktor in Budapest. Met with Orban.
Megarian reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Diane Jeanette contributed from Rio de Janeiro.