- Mariana Sanches – @mariana_sanches
- Sent from BBC News Brasil to New York
The presidents of the United States, Joe Biden, and Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, possibly never had so much in common as in the period of approximately 24 hours between the afternoon of the 20th and the late morning of the 21st of this month.
Both share the same roof and the same political stage: Biden and Bolsonaro will speak one after the other at the opening of the 76th General Assembly of the United Nations (UN), this Tuesday morning (21/9), and are staying at the hotel International Barclays, New York City.
Despite the coincidence of agendas — and intense efforts by the Brazilian side for the two presidents to have their first formal meeting since the Democrat took command of the White House — it is unlikely that they will speak for more than a few seconds.
“It would be great to break this silly ice,” said a high-ranking Itamaraty official, who hopes that the exchange of posts in the pulpit of the General Assembly can yield at least cordial, albeit brief, greetings between the two leaders.
Since Biden arrived at the White House in January, he and Bolsonaro have never spoken directly, not even on the phone, although Biden has spoken with more than three dozen leaders around the world, including Argentine Alberto Fernández. Both were limited to exchanging cards.
During the fierce US election campaign in 2020, Bolsonaro made no secret of his preference for the victory of Republican Trump, with whom he is close. After Biden’s triumph, the Brazilian president even mentioned unfounded accusations of electoral fraud in the US and was the last among the G-20 leaders to recognize the Democrat’s victory.
Intermediaries between the two presidents
Since then, several sectors of the governments of Brazil and the US have been engaged in dialogues and exchanges, but there is a clear perception among diplomats that Biden avoids direct engagement with Bolsonaro and takes advantage of the presence of his secretariat to keep between himself and his colleague a reasonable number of intermediaries.
At the State Department, Bolsonaro has been seen as unpredictable, which could result in unsafe or advantageous interactions for the American, who is trying to reaffirm the role of the United States in the multilateral dialogue, after Trump’s administration, which excelled in bilateral relations and focused on few allies.
A brief but positive interaction at the UN will depend not only on Bolsonaro’s record of actions, but also on his words in the 20-minute speech. Until Monday night (20/09), less than 12 hours before the event, the content of the Brazilian’s speech was not 100% closed.
Federal deputy Eduardo Bolsonaro, son of the president who is accompanying him on the trip, even commented to journalists that he would spend at least two hours with his father editing the content prepared primarily by Itamaraty. The original text was built on three pillars: environment, vaccines and economy. Nods to the electoral base must be included.
The difficult balance between pragmatism and ideological agendas must determine the reaction by Americans. In the description given privately by a Bolsonaro assistant to the reporter, this Monday morning, “the president is very well disposed and always prepared to do something stupid.”
Kerry and Milk, Blinken and France
If the conversation between Biden and Bolsonaro is unlikely, the situation is different between the two presidents’ aides.
The Minister of Environment, Joaquim Leite, will meet with the presidential envoy for Climate Change, John Kerry, this Tuesday afternoon, 21. It will be the second meeting between them in just five days.
In the last meeting — held remotely — Kerry would have even praised the drop in deforestation in Brazil measured in the month of August. In the middle of the year, the relationship between Kerry and members of the Bolsonaro administration cooled significantly, given the perception among Americans that then-minister Ricardo Salles was not offering concrete results in the fight against environmental devastation. In recent weeks, however, there has been a rapprochement.
To collaborate with this, the forecast is that during the speech, Bolsonaro will inform the world – and Biden – that he fulfilled a promise made in April, during the climate summit organized by the American.
On the occasion, Bolsonaro promised to double the environmental inspection budget. In August, the budget for control agencies such as IBAMA was increased by 118%. The Brazilian administration tries to offer the Americans an increase in the dialogue with developing countries in Latin America and Africa and their engagement in the climate issue. In exchange, he wants developed countries to commit to COP-26, the climate summit taking place in Scotland in November, to transfer resources for investment in infrastructure and renewable energy sources in these countries.
In addition to Kerry, another to have an agenda with the Brazilian delegation will be US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The invitation to meet Chancellor Carlos França had come from him. On the table, in addition to the climate issue — a priority for the Americans — there is also pressure against the participation of Chinese companies in Brazil’s 5G network and regional issues, such as the crisis in Venezuela and Haiti.
On Monday, the Bolsonaro government celebrated the State Department’s announcement that restrictions on travelers from Brazil, instituted a year and a half ago because of the covid-19 pandemic, would be abolished. Fully vaccinated Brazilians will be able to enter the US without the need for quarantine in a third country, as long as they present negative PCR test results. The release takes effect in November.
And if the physical proximity between Biden and Bolsonaro will not necessarily mean a gain for relations between the countries, this Monday it brought at least an inconvenience to the Brazilian delegation.
First lady Michelle Bolsonaro, returning from shopping in New York, was stranded outside the US police cordon, which limited access to the hotel building for nearly two hours as Biden’s entourage approached the scene. When she overcame the security barriers, which even included a line of trucks loaded with sand, Michelle was rescued by a member of the presidency’s ceremonials who freed her from an examination of the US security service’s metal detector, announcing that she was the first lady. from Brazil.
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