Trump buddies up with Bolsonaro, the ‘Trump of the Tropics’

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro shakes hands with US President Donald Trump at the conclusion of a joint news conference in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, US, on March 19, 2019. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)
Updated 20 March 2019
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Trump buddies up with Bolsonaro, the ‘Trump of the Tropics’

  • Trump says he had agreed to designate Brazil a “major non-NATO ally”
  • Returning the favor, Bolsonaro predicts Trump would win re-election in 2020
WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump welcomed Brazil’s new far-right leader to the White House Tuesday and made clear that flattery pays.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro — the “Trump of the Tropics“— ran an unabashedly pro-Trump, pro-American campaign last year, emulating Trump in tone and style. It seems to have paid off for Bolsonaro on his first official trip to Washington.
At a joint news conference, Trump announced that he’d agreed to designate Brazil a “major non-NATO ally” — something Brazil had pursued to smooth US weapons purchases and military coordination. Trump even said he’d be open to granting full NATO membership to Latin America’s largest and most populous nation, even though Brazil doesn’t quality to join the North Atlantic alliance.
The showing was the latest example of the premium Trump puts on personal relationships and the extent to which he’s willing to work with those who sing his virtues. And it renewed focus on the growing wave of populist strongmen who have captured voters’ support with blunt admonitions of “political correctness” and hard-line immigration views.
As they sat down for the first time, Trump hailed Bolsonaro’s run as “one of the incredible campaigns,” saying he was “honored” it had drawn comparisons to his own 2016 victory. And he predicted the two would have a “fantastic working relationship,” telling reporters at a joint press conference that they have “many views” in common. The two also exchanged soccer jerseys in a sign of their budding friendship.
Bolsonaro was equally complimentary, predicting Trump would win re-election in 2020 and drawing parallels between their efforts.
Standing side-by-side in the White House Rose Garden, Bolsonaro said their two countries “stand side by side in their efforts to ensure liberties and respect to traditional family lifestyles, respect to God, our Creator, against the gender ideology or the politically correct attitudes and against fake news.”
“I’m very proud to hear the president use the term ‘fake news’,” Trump later remarked.
The embrace represents a shift in US-Brazilian relations. In 2013, leaks from Edward Snowden revealed that the National Security Agency had wiretapped conversations of former President Dilma Rousseff, leading to several years of tense relations between the nations.
Bolsonaro had arrived in the US with a half a dozen ministers and a goal of expanding trade, diplomatic and military cooperation between the two largest economies in the Western Hemisphere. And Trump appeared eager to deliver.
He announced he would back Brazil’s effort’s to join the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, while floating the idea of full NATO membership, though he said he’d “have to talk to a lot of people” for Brazil to join the organization.
However, James Stavridis, a retired Navy admiral who was the Supreme Allied Commander at NATO from 2009 to 2013, said Brazil does not qualify for full membership under the North Atlantic Treaty of 1949.
“The idea of formal membership is a nonstarter in every dimension — the treaty doesn’t allow it, the Brazilians wouldn’t want it and the Europeans wouldn’t approve,” Stavridis said in an email exchange.
The efforts came as both countries continue to denounce the crisis in Venezuela and called on members of the Venezuelan military to end their support for President Nicolas Maduro. Both the US and Brazil have recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate leader, and Trump reiterated that “all options” to address Venezuela’s economic and political crisis remain on the table.
The leaders also were expected to discuss a range of other issues, including expanding trade relations and increasing US private-sector investment in Brazil.
Bolsonaro has much in common with Trump. He, too, ran an insurgent, social media-powered campaign. And like Trump, he has blasted unflattering stories as “fake news” and used Twitter and Facebook to bypass mainstream news organizations.
As a congressman, Bolsonaro frequently made disparaging comments about gays, women, indigenous groups and blacks, and he has praised torture and killings by police and waxed nostalgic for Brazil’s old military dictatorship. While such comments have drawn sharp criticism, they have also generated attention and fed into his narrative as a leader unencumbered by political correctness.
Bolsonaro has also echoed Trump’s hard-line immigration policies, calling immigrants from several poor countries the “scum of the world” and saying Brazil cannot become a “country of open borders.”
In an interview with Fox News Monday, Bolsonaro said he supported Trump’s immigration policies and his efforts to build a wall along the US-Mexico border.
“The majority of potential immigrants do not have good intentions or do not intend to do the best or do good for the American people,” he said.
Bolsonaro also had the support of Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon, who has since parted ways with the White House. While Bolsonaro has dismissed reports that Bannon played a key role in his campaign, Bolsonaro’s son Eduardo approached Bannon in July of last year and the two struck up a friendship. In August, Eduardo posted a picture of the two of them on Instagram with a caption that said Bannon was an “enthusiast” of his father’s candidacy and that they would “unite forces against cultural Marxism.” It was one of several meetings, Bannon said.
On Sunday, Bannon joined Bolsonaro for a dinner at the Brazilian Embassy along with various Cabinet members and other leaders, where they discussed subjects including the country’s economic plans.
Bolsonaro, Bannon told The Associated Press, “understands the Trump program and understands President Trump” and said both represent a “tectonic plate shift in the world of politics” toward blunt, politically incorrect leaders in the model of Trump.
“This is a new kind of global political moment,” he said.
In advance of the meeting, the countries signed several bilateral agreements, including one that allows the United States to use Brazil’s Alcantara Aerospace Launch Base for its satellites. Brazil also announced an end to visa requirements for US tourists who visit the country, while Trump agreed to Brazilian participation in the Trusted Traveler “Global Entry” program.
Days after taking office on Jan. 1, Bolsonaro, a former army captain, said Brazil would consider letting the US have a military base in the country as way to counter Russian influence in the region, particularly related to Brazil’s neighbor Venezuela.
That statement was roundly criticized, including by former military members of his government, and the administration backed off.


Indian minister steps up calls to deport illegal immigrants

Updated 22 min 46 sec ago
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Indian minister steps up calls to deport illegal immigrants

  • National Register of Citizenship will be extended across country, says Amit Shah

NEW DELHI: New Delhi will deport all illegal immigrants found in the country, Indian Home Minister Amit Shah told Parliament on Wednesday.

The warning signaled a heightening of a campaign that some critics say is “aimed at alienating the Muslim minority.”

The minister’s statement comes as the state of Assam is set to release its final list of the National Register of Citizenship (NRC), an exercise to identify illegal migrants from neighboring Bangladesh. The Supreme Court demanded that the NRC should submit its report at the end of this month.

Of the state’s 31 million residents, almost 4 million were missing from the NRC’s report last year. Most were poor Muslims. Illegal immigration was a core election issue for the ruling right-wing party Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP)

“The government will identify illegal immigrants living in every inch of the country’s soil and will deport them in line with international law,” said Shah.

He added that the NRC would be extended across the country. 

Shah, a Hindu hard-liner and the second most powerful figure in the Narendra Modi government, has been belligerently opposed to illegal Muslim immigrants, who he recently described as “termites.”

Critics have questioned the need for the NRC throughout the country.

The BJP does not want to clarify what it truly means because that is part of their politics, but the opposition leaders are also silent.

Hilal Ahmad, Academic

“This is a witch hunt of the minority under the false concern of illegal immigration,” said SubHajjit Naskar of Jadavpur University.

“The way the NRC is being implemented in Assam is damaging for our secular and democratic values.”

Naskar told Arab News: “The register is part of the broader majoritarian agenda to make India a Hindu state where minority Muslims will be treated as second class citizens.” 

Dr. Hilal Ahmad, associate professor at the Center for the Study of Developing Societies, said: “The substantial part of Shah’s statement is that NRC is not entirely about Muslims. It also claims that it’s an institutional process with legal support and it’s not at all concerned with Muslims.”

Ahmad added: “The BJP does not want to clarify what it truly means because that is part of their politics, but the opposition leaders are also silent. They are also trying to consolidate the impression that the NRC is anti-Muslim.”

Suhas Chakma, director of the Rights and Risks Analysis Group, said that “Shah’s plans are not practical.”

“How you are going to identify illegal migrants? Have you spoken to Bangladesh about the deportation? What the BJP government is trying to do is not implementable. It is a recipe for chaos,” said Chakma.

Sabber Ahmad, from the Rohingya Human Rights Initiative, a New Delhi-based group serving the persecuted minority community from Myanmar, said the “Indian government’s stance on illegal migrants creates panic among the small Rohingya community living here.”

“I fled Myanmar in 2012 and India gave me a new lease of life. New Dehli should show some humanity in dealing with people like us,” Ahmad told Arab News.

“India has a history of sheltering persecuted minorities from around the world. They must continue this proud tradition,” Ahmad added.