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Venezuela at Trump - Bolsonaro Mar-a-Lago's dinner menu

Eva Maria Uzcategui/Bloomberg

Bolsonaro and Trump discuss Venezuela on Saturday at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla.

- Trade, Middle East, military research was also on agenda
- Trump admiration has been a mixed blessing for Bolsonaro

By Samy Adghirni, John Harney, and Mario Parker/Bloomberg

Petroleumworld 03 09 2020

President Donald Trump hosted Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro for dinner at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida on Saturday, where the two leaders discussed the U.S.-led effort to oust Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

The two men are mutual admirers who won election by appealing to nationalist sentiment in their countries. Along with Venezuela, they spoke about a future trade deal, the Middle East and collaboration in military research, according to a joint statement after the meeting.

“Brazil loves him and the U.S.A loves him,” Trump said in brief remarks to reporters before their dinner. Asked whether he would hold off on imposing more tariffs on Bolsonaro's country, Trump said: “I don't make any promises.”

A senior Trump administration official told reporters in a briefing on Saturday that the U.S. wants the Maduro regime smashed and destroyed if free elections can't be achieved in Venezuela.

The Trump administration has, so far unsuccessfully, supported efforts by Juan Guaido, the Venezuelan opposition leader, to dislodge Maduro, who has clung to power despite the nation's steep economic decline. Bolsonaro's government this month ordered all of Brazil's diplomats to leave Venezuela's capital, Caracas.

“President Trump and President Bolsonaro reiterated their countries' support for democracy in the region, including Interim President of Venezuela Juan Guaido and the democratically elected Venezuelan National Assembly as they work to restore constitutional order in Venezuela,” according to the statement after the meeting.

Officials told Bloomberg News that the leaders would discuss the involvement of the Chinese company Huawei Technologies Co. in Brazilian broadband networks, something the Trump administration regards as a security threat. The statement didn't mention Huawei.

Bolsonaro, a former Army officer and right-wing populist who fashioned his successful election campaign after the American president's, traveled to Florida to meet with U.S. business leaders.

‘My Friend Trump'

Before leaving for the U.S., Bolsonaro tweeted that he was getting together with “my friend Trump,” and that they would talk about defense, business cooperation and trade.

The leaders “ noted the potential benefits to American and Brazilian workers and businesses of growing the bilateral economic relationship,” according to the White House statement. “To this end, they instructed their trade officials to deepen discussions for a bilateral trade package this year, with a view towards intensifying the economic partnership between their two countries.”

In his relations with Venezuela and Cuba and on other issues, Bolsonaro has ardently courted the American president, and broke with diplomatic protocol by predicting a Trump re-election victory in November.

The courtship has sometimes seemed unrequited. It didn't stop Trump from threatening to reinstate U.S. tariffs on Brazilian steel and aluminum, or favoring Argentina and Romania's candidacies for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development over that of Brazil, Latin America's largest economy.

But Trump refrained from the tariffs, and last month the U.S. lifted a ban on fresh-beef imports from Brazil that had been in place since 2017. Trump on Saturday reiterated his administration's support for Brazil's membership in the OECD.

A U.S. senior administration official said Saturday that Trump is also interested in upgrading the American military alliance with Brazil. The official noted that Colombia, which has also been enlisted in the effort to pressure Venezuela, is currently the only official NATO partner country in Latin America.

International Criticism

But Brazil has fewer international friends because of Bolsonaro's partisan stances and his clashes with other leaders such as French President Emmanuel Macron as well as Alberto Fernandez, the new president of neighboring Argentina.

That position was underscored by a vote at the United Nations last year to condemn the U.S. embargo of Cuba: 187 nations voted for it, while Brazil and Israel were the only two countries siding with the U.S.

Forest conservation came up at the dinner with Trump. Bolsonaro suffered broad international criticism last year when forest fires ravaged the Amazon rainforest. But the American president was not among those who publicly criticized Bolsonaro for the fires, instead complimenting his Brazilian counterpart in a tweet for “working very hard” to bring them under control.

When his latest U.S. trip was announced last month, the Brazilian government said that Bolsonaro would attend a business seminar in Miami and try to persuade Tesla Inc. to build a plant in Brazil. Tesla has so far not confirmed a meeting.

His mission to attract more foreign investment became more urgent after Brazil reported that economic growth slowed to 1.1% last year. The government has acknowledged that the coronavirus will affect economic activity.

Story by Samy Adghirni, John Harney, and Mario Parker from Bloomberg
03 07 2020



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