President Trump was preparing for the Group of Seven summit in France when he learned that one of his most ardent suitors was trying to reach him. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro needed a favor, and Trump told aides to patch the call through.
Bolsonaro got right to the point: The powerful G-7 countries, including France and Canada, were unfairly ganging up on Brazil over their criticism of his government’s response to massive fires ravaging the Amazon rainforest. Since Brazil is not a G-7 member, he told Trump, it was in danger of being “left without a voice,” according to a senior Trump administration official familiar with their call.
Trump did not hesitate. “Absolutely, we will be a voice for Brazil,” the president responded, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss a private conversation.
Within days, Trump delivered as promised. French President Emmanuel Macron announced at the end of last weekend’s G-7 meetings that member nations had approved a $22 million emergency aid package to help combat the fires, but the Trump administration did not support the measure, insisting that any solution should be done in consultation with Brazil, senior White House aides said this week.
In a tweet after the summit — as Bolsonaro threatened to reject the aid money in a feud with Macron that included personal insults — Trump praised Bolsonaro for “working very hard on the Amazon fires and in all respects doing a great job for the people of Brazil.”
The episode illustrated the success Bolsonaro has had in forging a bond with Trump since sweeping to a surprise election in October behind promises to “make Brazil great again.” A far-right nationalist initially viewed as a long shot, Bolsonaro unabashedly modeled himself after Trump, weaponizing social media, bullying rivals and courting the Trump administration by promising strong support for Israel, pressure on socialist regimes in Venezuela and Cuba and newfound potential for bilateral trade. [Continue reading…]