Following Donald Trumps defeat in the 2020 election, and after the bloody Jan. 6 riot that Trump instigated, the 45th U.S. president immediately lost many of his ties to world leaders he once called friends. However, Brazils far-right president Jair Bolsonaro, who has modeled himself in Trumps image, sought to keep the bromance alive.
Thats something former President Trump, months after officially departing the White House, hasnt forgotten, and has expressed some interest in returning the favor.
This summer, according to two people with knowledge of the matter, Trump told confidants that hes open to publicly endorsing Bolsonaros reelection, potentially at a mega-rally in Brazil where he and Bolsonaro could appear together side-by-side, to rail against what they each deem undesired election outcomes. Bolsonaro, who is widely expected to decisively fail in his reelection bid next year, has been preemptively spreading groundless claims of election fraud, a strategy jarringly reminiscent of Trumps failed coup in the United States.
Whether Trump ends up visiting his Brazilian peer soon or not (the U.S. government issued a level four advisory for those interested in visiting Brazil), the links between Bolsonaro-world and Trumpland remain firmly intact.
President Bolsonaros son Eduardo, who serves as a member of the Brazilian parliament and has been described in the U.S. press as the Donald Trump Jr. of Brazil, recently met with Trump, according to a post on the Brazilian lawmakers Instagram account. Last month, the younger Bolsonaro posted pictures of himself at Trump Tower standing next to the former president. Bolsonaro, whose infant daughter posed alongside the ex-president in an autographed MAGA ball cap, said he took the opportunity to invite [Trump] to come to our country when he sees fit, maybe in a CPAC-Brazil.
Trump apparently did not make it to Brazils version of the annual U.S. conservative summit, although Donald Trump Jr. spoke to the conference via video. CPAC Brasil 2021, which was hosted in Brazils capital city of Braslia early this month, is one of several foreign spin-offs of the stateside conference, which is put on by the American Conservative Union. The ACU is fronted by Trump-aligned lobbyist Matt Schlapp, who is also a friend to the Bolsonaro political dynasty.
It was on the way back from that trip that a delegation of American conservatives, including Trumps former senior adviser and spokesman Jason Miller, was briefly detained by Brazilian law enforcement as they attempted to fly out of the country on Tuesday. The incident came on Brazils independence day, as Bolsonaro urged his supporters to defend his administration by flooding into the streets of Braslia, as well as other major cities
A day before he was detained, Miller appeared on former top Trump aide Steve Bannons podcast to praise Bolsonaro, whom he described as a very impressive man.
In a lot of ways, President Bolsonaro has the same superpowers that President Trump does, Miller said.
Gettr, Millers attempt at a pro-Trump social media platform, has proven especially popular with conservative Brazilian supporters of President Bolsonaro, according to a recent report by Stanford Universitys Internet Observatory. As a part of that study, researchers looked at the frequency of flag emojis in Gettr users profiles: Brazilian flags, affixed to 11,350 profiles, were second only to American flags, found on 20,650 accounts. The flag metric is an imprecise measurement of the national demographics of Gettrs roughly 1.5 million followers but nonetheless points to a notably large and vocal community of pro-Bolsonaro users on the social media app. Their presence in such numbers, Stanford researchers wrote, is likely due at least in part to the support of Bolsonaros son Flavio, who announced he was joining the platform back in July.
The pugnacious Brazilian president has returned the favor, courting Miller with a high-level meeting during the Brazil trip. Miller met with a barefoot Bolsonaro and his son Eduardo, according to pictures posted on Twitter by fellow attendee Matthew Tyrmand, a board member of pro-Trump conservative activist James OKeefes Project Veritas group. During the meeting, Bolsonaro and his son held up a Project Veritas shirt.
He wants to be sort of the South American branch of Trumpism, if you will, said Gustavo Ribeiro, the founder of Brazilian news website The Brazilian Report.
Bolsonaros critics had accused him of using the protests to stage a coup or his own version of a Jan. 6-style attack on government institutions. While protesters broke through some police barricades the night before, the pro-Bolsonaro rallies were stymied by low attendance and a heightened law enforcement presence.
Eduardo Bolsonaro has become an emissary between his father and the American far-right. In 2019, the younger Bolsonaro joined a sort of international populist movement founded by Bannon, as the representative for South America.
Andre Pagliarini, an associate professor at Hampden-Sydney College who studies modern Brazilian political history, said the Bolsonaros affiliate themselves with Trump associates like Bannon in an attempt to get closer to Trump.
Its that lingering Trump dust that is still on Bannon that appeals to them, Pagliarini said.
Eduardo Bolsonaro has even courted less internationally known Trump allies in the United States like MyPillow CEO and staunch Trump ally Mike Lindell. In August, Bolsonaro spoke at Lindells ill-fated cyber-symposium event, a bumbling attempt to prove the false conspiracy theory that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump.
Before his speech, Bolsonaro handed Lindell a red MAGA hat he claimed came from the twice-impeached former U.S. president.
Bolsonaro will win unless its stolen byguess what?the machines, Bannon said while the younger Bolsonaro was on-stage.
The machines! Lindell agreed.
For his part, the Trumpist pillow magnate hasnt gone all in on Bolsonaro just yet. Lindell told The Daily Beast on Thursday night that he is currently not planning on sinking any money or resources into anything Brazil-relatedbecause he is working to launch new fronts in his audit crusade in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Alabama, Colorado.
Bolsonaro is expected to lose his 2022 reelection campaign to left-wing former Brazilian president Luiz Incio Lula da Silva. Ahead of that projected defeat, Bolsonaro is bringing Trump and the GOPs baseless allegations of massive voter fraud to Brazil, part of an effort to claim victory even if he loses.
Here is a network of denialism in the United States thats established after Trump loses that they can kind of plug themselves into, Pagliarini said.
Bolsonaro has already adapted American culture-war fights for Brazil, according to Ribeiro, embracing fights over gun control and supposed COVID-19 cure hydroxychloroquine.
Bolsonaro was also an early promoter of ivermectin, the anti-parasitic drug thats been embraced as an unproven COVID-19 treatment by anti-vaccine groups in the United States.
We dont have a Second Amendment here, but still they use arguments very similar to what Republicans would use in the United States about the freedom to bear weapons, Ribeiro said.
Some pro-Trump media outlets have embraced Bolsonaro as a figure Bannon has called the Trump of the tropics. QAnon social media channels eagerly followed the Brazilian protests, casting them as ordinary Brazilians reclaiming their freedom from liberal elites. Right-wing blog The Gateway Pundit argued that pro-Bolsonaro protesters and Trump supporters were all part of a single global battle against so-called corruption.
This isnt the first time meetings between Bolsonaro and Trumpworld have made headlines. In March 2020, a meeting between Trump and Bolsonaro at Mar-a-Lago became a prominent coronavirus hotspot in the United States after several Bolsonaro aides tested positive for the virus.
Trump has praised Bolsonaros style many times when he was in office, and loves how Bolsonaro goes after the media in his country and political correctness, said a source close to Trump whos spoken to him about Bolsonaro several times. But the [former] president has been sure to point out that he is better looking than Bolsonaro at least twice when Ive spoken to him.
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