Brazil’s new President Jair Bolsonaro said that he would be open to the possibility of the United States operating a military base on his country’s soil, a move that would form a sharp shift in direction for Brazilian foreign policy.
Bolsonaro, who took power on Tuesday, said that Russia’s support of President Nicolas Maduro’s “dictatorship” in neighboring Venezuela had significantly ramped up tensions in the region and was a worrying development.
Asked by the SBT TV network in an interview taped on Thursday if that meant he would allow U.S. military presence in Brazil, Bolsonaro responded that he would certainly be willing to negotiate that possibility.
“Depending on what happens in the world, who knows if we would not need to discuss that question in the future,” Bolsonaro said.
He emphasized that what Brazil seeks is to have “supremacy here in South America.”
The far-right leader is upending foreign policy dating back over a decade, which saw the leftist Workers Party emphasizing South-South relations and sometimes tussling on the international stage with the United States.
Bolsonaro, a 63-year-old former Army captain and admirer of both Brazil’s 1964 to 1985 military dictatorship and U.S. President Donald Trump, has quickly deepened ties with the Unites States and Israel.
Bolsonaro’s national security adviser, retired Army General Augusto Heleno, confirmed earlier on Thursday that the president wants to move Brazil’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, but that logistical considerations were standing in the way.
Heleno did not elaborate.
But the country’s powerful agriculture sector is opposed to moving the embassy from Tel Aviv and angering Arab nations that buy billions of dollars worth of Brazilian halal or “permissible” meat each year.
Benjamin Netanyahu became the first Israeli Prime Minister to visit Brazil this week when he attended Bolsonaro’s inauguration. After a private meeting, Netanyahu said that Bolsonaro told him that moving the embassy was a matter of “when, not if.”
Heleno said on Thursday, “there is a clear desire that this happens, but there has been no decision on a date.”
Separately, Bolsonaro met with the head of the World Trade Organization, Roberto Azevedo, who said the government’s sharp rebukes of globalism were shared by many other countries and that the trade body was making changes.
On Wednesday, Brazil’s new Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo said that underwatch the country would fight for change at multilateral institutions like the WTO.
Araujo’s words were not a threat, Azevedo said.
“To the contrary, I think it was very propitious and compatible with what is happening,” he said after meeting Bolsonaro. “The World Trade Organization itself is beginning the process of reforms.”