Brasilia | Diplomatic relations between Brazil and the United States risk becoming turbulent if Joe Biden wins the US presidential election, with far-right President Jair Bolsonaro a fervent admirer of his opponent Donald Trump.
Dubbed the “tropical Trump,” Bolsonaro broke loose last week when the Democratic candidate threatened his country with economic sanctions over deforestation in the Amazon.
The Brazilian leader considered “disastrous” his remarks which threaten according to him “the cordial relations” between the two countries.
However, he had previously shown willingness to adopt a “pragmatic” stance if Mr. Biden won.
Upon taking office in January 2019, Jair Bolsonaro broke Brazil’s tradition of multilateralism to forge increasingly close ties with the Trump administration.
And when the Republican president was contaminated by COVID-19, his Brazilian counterpart wanted him to be “quickly recovered” so that his “re-election campaign is not affected”.
“You will win and you will be stronger, for the good of the United States and the world,” he added.
His son Eduardo Bolsonaro had been heavily criticized by American Democrats after sharing a pro-Trump video on Twitter in July.
At the end of September, the Brazilian ambassador to Washington, Nestor Foster, admitted that a victory for Joe Biden would generate “a redefinition” of the priorities of American diplomacy. But he assured that Brazil would be able to manage this turn “with a certain pragmatism”.
“We are open to dialogue, I have had many contacts with personalities from the Democratic Party and we have good friends there,” said the ambassador in an interview with the business daily Valor.
Critics of President Bolsonaro believe that the latter is acting as Trump’s vassal, with unwavering support without any real counterpart. They particularly point to Washington’s procrastination in the South American country’s accession process to the OECD.
For Matias Spektor, professor of international relations at the Getulio Vargas Foundation (FGV), a victory for Joe Biden in the November 3 ballot would spell the end of the “red carpet for Bolsonaro at the White House”.
“Brazil would find it more difficult to trade with the United States”, its second trading partner, continues this specialist.
“This would reduce Bolsonaro’s room for maneuver, with regard to the environment, but also human rights,” he adds.
China and 5G
This does not necessarily mean that relations between the two countries will deteriorate sharply, with the United States needing to retain a strong ally in the trade war against China. And Brazil exports its soybeans, meat and iron ore on a massive scale to the Asian giant, which is its main trading partner.
The stake is all the more considerable as the Brazilian government must organize in the first half of 2021 the calls for tenders for the 5G network, with the Chinese group Huawei and the Europeans Ericsson and Nokia in the ranks.
US Ambassador to Brasilia Todd Chapman has previously warned that Brazil could face “consequences” if it chooses Huawei.
“Biden and the Democrats criticize Trump’s strong lobbying on 5G, but are not against less (Brazil’s) dependence on China,” Jonathan Wood, Control analyst, told AFP Risks.
“It is likely that a Biden administration retains ideas from the Trump era, such as making Brazil a preferential and strategic ally in South America, including in terms of competition with China,” said he.
For Matias Spektor, Brazil is the only South American country where the United States has a “real opportunity” to curb Beijing’s influence.
“Even if Bolsonaro’s image is negative in terms of the environment and human rights, there will always be people in Washington to say that Brazil is the country where we can act against China”, concludes -he.