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How Trump and Brazil’s Bolsonaro align, both personally and politically

At the White House on Tuesday, President Trump welcomed Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, in the latter’s first bilateral foreign visit. The two leaders share many similar views, as they reiterated at a press conference, and Bolsonaro represents Brazil’s first pro-U.S. leader in decades. Nick Schifrin reports on how the two presidents hope to align their countries on trade and politics.

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  • Amna Nawaz:

    Today, President Trump welcomed Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro for an official visit to the White House. Bolsonaro has been dubbed the Trump of the Tropics because of the rhetoric and policies the two leaders share.

    As Nick Schifrin reports, the two presidents are now trying to overcome more than three decades of Brazilian suspicion of the United States.

  • President Donald Trump:

    We're going to exchange jerseys.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Today at the White House, the leaders of the Western Hemisphere's two largest economies declared themselves on the same team and allied in a new North-South American axis.

  • President Donald Trump:

    We're going to have a fantastic working relationship. We have many views that are similar.

  • Jair Bolsonaro (through translator):

    Brazil and the United States stand side by side in their efforts to ensure liberties, respect for the traditional family, respect for God, our creator, against gender ideology and political correctness and against fake news.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Jair Bolsonaro is the first unabashedly pro-American Brazilian president since the end of military rule in the 1980s, and made the U.S. his first bilateral foreign visit.

  • Jair Bolsonaro (through translator):

    It is time to overcome old resistance and explore the very best potential that is there between Brazil and the U.S. After all, it is fair to say, today, Brazil has a president who is not anti-American, which is really unprecedented in the last few decades.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    The Trump administration considers Bolsonaro a key conservative ally, especially on Venezuela, as the U.S. tries to oust President Nicolas Maduro. Maduro is propped up by his military, and the U.S. is trying to convince that military to give him up by using the Brazilian military as an interlocutor.

    As part of today's visit, Brazil agreed to open a military base to U.S. satellites. The two sides are increasing trade agreements, and the U.S. labeled Brazil a major non-NATO ally.

    But those agreements were less important than what was said, argues "America's Quarterly" editor in chief Brian Winter.

  • Brian Winter:

    In Bolsonaro, you really have — there's really no other leader anywhere in the world who has so openly tried to copy the Donald Trump model in terms of both substance and style. That was really what both leaders wanted, was, to a certain extent, some validation.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Back home, supporters call Bolsonaro myth, a reference to the almost mythical status he achieved after surviving a campaign trail stabbing last September, and to his middle name, Messias.

    They elected him, a populist, to fight corruption, end the country's longest recession, and tackle endemic violence. But critics of the man dubbed Trump of the Tropics call him an extremist. In 2014, he argued with a lawmaker and, after pushing her, yelled, "I wouldn't rape you because you are not worthy of it."

    After he tried to shout down the female head of a commission investigating gender violence, fellow parliamentarians forced him to leave, calling him a fascist.

    In a 2011 interview with "Playboy," he said he would rather his son die in a car accident than be gay. And right before his election, when calling in to a rally, Bolsonaro promised the rule of law would be become rule by law unleashed on his political opponents.

  • Jair Bolsonaro (through translator):

    These red outcasts will be banished from our homeland. It will be a cleansing never seen in Brazilian history.

  • Brian Winter:

    In Brazil's case, where they were still immersed in many respects in the worst recession in their history, a country with 63,000 homicides per year, with a massive corruption scandal, a lot of voters heard those kinds of comments and thought, aha, this is a guy who is going to do things differently in Brasilia, in the capital.

    And so that's why he's in office.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    But Bolsonaro faces some internal resistance in aligning Brazil to the U.S. Brazil has not followed the U.S. lead in moving its embassy to Jerusalem. Brazil has not left the Paris climate accords. And Brazil is among the West's most protectionist countries, and could oppose opening up the country to more U.S. trade.

    But President Trump is focusing on his personal connection with Bolsonaro, and the administration called today a historic step toward realigning two countries whose leaders' world views are themselves aligned.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Nick Schifrin.

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