Jan 4, 2019

Arrival of Brazil's Bolsonaro draws praise from Trump, fear from critics

Bolsonaro (L) arrives for his inauguration. Photo: Sergio Lima /AFP/Getty Images

Brazil’s new president, right-wing firebrand Jair Bolsonaro, seemed to confirm the fears of his critics and the hopes of many of his supporters within hours of taking office on New Year's Day.

The big picture: The former army captain has a penchant for insulting women, gay people and minorities, and an affinity for military rule. The stock market loves him so far, and he’s viewed as a natural ally by the Trump administration.

  • President Trump praised Bolsonaro’s inaugural address, which was attended by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
  • National security adviser John Bolton has hailed Bolsonaro’s election as a “positive sign” and suggested he could help counter leftists in the region while increasing the pressure on Cuba and Venezuela.

On day one, Bolsonaro issued executive orders making it far more difficult for land to be set aside for indigenous groups — a boon for the powerful agro-business lobby — and removed LGBT concerns from the portfolio of the human rights ministry, which will be run by an evangelical minister who echoes Bolsonaro’s claims about the “ideological indoctrination” of Brazil’s youth.

Martin Aguirre, editor-in-chief of Uruguay’s El Pais newspaper and a former Axios fellow, emails from Montevideo that “Trump is going to love this guy.”

  • “He will be an unconditional ally of Israel, shares many protectionist views with the U.S. when it comes to China, and will definitely be on Trump’s side on issues like global warming or migration.”
  • “He fits perfectly into this new breed of right-wing leaders, like [Hungary’s Viktor] Orbán or [the Philippines’ Rodrigo] Duterte, who are shaking the world political landscape, freaking out journalists, traditional politicians, and status quo institutions.”
  • The region’s other power, Mexico, recently elected a leftist president in Andrés Manuel López Obrador who is likely to clash with Trump, Aguirre writes. “The fact that at the same time the other powerhouse elects a president so aligned with U.S. short-term interests can only be seen as a relief for the White House,” particularly if he “manages to align this new wave of center-right leaders in the region.”

Two key questions:

  1. Can Bolsonaro really implement his free trade platform? “Brazil is a very closed country on trade, and the big industrialists and businessmen fear an opening, so it’s going to be interesting to see who wins there.”
  2. Can he really pivot away from China, Brazil's largest trading partner, as the Trump administration hopes? That will be difficult, considering the “agro-business was Bolsonaro’s biggest supporter and China buys all their soybeans and beef," Aguirre writes.

For those reasons, Daniel Erikson argues for Axios Expert Voices that despite his strident criticism of China on the campaign trail, Bolsonaro is “likely to assume a more pragmatic attitude toward Beijing once in office.”

Go deeper:

Go deeper

In photos: Trump visits Taj Mahal after massive rally in India

President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump at the Taj Mahal. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump visited India's Taj Mahal on Monday, hours after telling a massive crowd at a rally in Ahmedabad that he hopes to reach a trade deal with his "true friend" Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his two-day visit to the country.

Why it matters: The countries are forging deeper ties as India’s location, size and economic growth make it the "obvious counterweight to China" for American policymakers.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 mins ago - World

Coronavirus stress tests drug industry's dependence on China

A Hong Kong commuter wears a face mask. Photo: Miguel Candela/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

It's unclear whether the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus will actually result in prescription drug shortages, but it has undoubtedly highlighted the potential vulnerabilities of having the supply chain for American drugs so dependent on China.

Driving the news: About 150 prescription drugs — including antibiotics, generics and some branded drugs without alternatives — are at risk of shortage if the coronavirus outbreak in China worsens, per two sources familiar with a list of at-risk drugs compiled by the Food and Drug Administration.

Bernie's path to the presidency

Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks yesterday during a rally at Houston University. Photo: Mark Felix/AFP via Getty Images

Lots of Democrats are in full panic that Bernie Sanders will win the nomination and get clobbered in the general election — and bring the party down, too. But the evidence, particularly the polling, doesn't back those doomsday warnings.

Why it matters: Virtually every national and swing state poll shows Sanders tied with or beating President Trump.  And, unlike every rival, he has a huge base of fervent, unshakable supporters he can only grow.