Expert Voices

In Bolsonaro, Bolton finds a dangerous ally

Supporters of Brazil's elected presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro are celebrating the confirmation of the victory of the second round of elections in the Paulista avenue
Supporters of Brazil's elected presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro celebrating his victory in São Paulo, on October 28, 2018. Photo: Fabio Vieira/FotoRua/NurPhoto via Getty Images

In a vituperative speech about Latin America on Thursday, national security adviser John Bolton referred to the Cuban, Nicaraguan and Venezuelan governments as a “troika of tyranny” and their leaders as "the three stooges." Perhaps most notably, after making vague promises to pressure the three repressive regimes and announcing an imminent increase in sanctions on Venezuela, Bolton called Brazil's recently elected right-wing authoritarian, Jair Bolonsoro, a “like-minded” leader for the Trump administration.

Why it matters: There is a clear affinity between the demagoguery of Trump and Bolsonaro, who are often facilely compared, but the latter's is hardly the sort of liberal government that would make a good ally against the oppressive “triangle of terror.” In fact, as a growing body of political science research has argued, Bolsonaro’s approach is in line with the strain of anti-democratic populism that has sprung up in Turkey, Poland, Hungry, the Philippines and Venezuela under former President Hugo Chávez.

Bolton to praise Bolsonaro, declare "Troika of Tyranny" in Latin America speech

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

National Security Adviser John Bolton will declare the election of right-wing firebrand Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil as a "positive sign" for Latin America while denouncing Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua as a "Troika of Tyranny," according to excerpts seen by Axios of a speech he will give at 1 p.m. ET in Miami.

Why it matters: Bolton’s speech is among the clearest statements of the administration’s views on Latin America that we’ve seen so far, and Bolton depicts it almost as a struggle of good versus evil. That he considers Bolsonaro, who has made numerous homophobic and sexist remarks and spoken fondly of military rule, an ally in the fight to "advance the rule of law and increase security and prosperity" is likely to garner attention. So too will his inclusion of Nicaragua, where President Daniel Ortega has brutally suppressed protests calling for his ouster, alongside Venezuela and Cuba in the "troika."

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