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Trump and Bolsonaro discuss Venezuela and a bilateral trade accord

Monday, March 9th 2020 - 08:54 UTC
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 “Brazil loves him and the U.S.A loves him,” Trump said in brief remarks to reporters before their dinner “Brazil loves him and the U.S.A loves him,” Trump said in brief remarks to reporters before their dinner

United States President Donald Trump hosted Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro for dinner at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida on Saturday, where the two leaders discussed the U.S.-led effort to oust Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and spoke about a future trade deal.

The two men are mutual admirers who won election by appealing to nationalist sentiment in their countries. Along with Venezuela, they spoke about collaboration in military research, the Middle East and helping Brazil access OECD, according to a joint statement after the meeting.

“Brazil loves him and the U.S.A loves him,” Trump said in brief remarks to reporters before their dinner. Asked whether he would hold off on imposing more tariffs on Bolsonaro’s country, Trump said: “I don’t make any promises.”

A senior Trump administration official told reporters in a briefing on Saturday that the U.S. wants the Maduro regime smashed and destroyed if free elections can’t be achieved in Venezuela.

The Trump administration has, so far unsuccessfully, supported efforts by Juan Guaido, the Venezuelan opposition leader, to dislodge Maduro, who has clung to power despite the nation’s steep economic decline. Bolsonaro’s government this month ordered all of Brazil’s diplomats to leave Venezuela’s capital, Caracas.

“President Trump and President Bolsonaro reiterated their countries’ support for democracy in the region, including Interim President of Venezuela Juan Guaido and the democratically elected Venezuelan National Assembly as they work to restore constitutional order in Venezuela,” according to the statement after the meeting.

Before leaving for the U.S., Bolsonaro tweeted that he was getting together with “my friend Trump,” and that they would talk about defense, business cooperation and trade.

The leaders “noted the potential benefits to American and Brazilian workers and businesses of growing the bilateral economic relationship,” according to the White House statement. “To this end, they instructed their trade officials to deepen discussions for a bilateral trade package this year, with a view towards intensifying the economic partnership between their two countries.”

Trump on Saturday reiterated his administration’s support for Brazil’s membership in the OECD.

A U.S. senior administration official said on Saturday that Trump is also interested in upgrading the American military alliance with Brazil. The official noted that Colombia, which has also been enlisted in the effort to pressure Venezuela, is currently the only official NATO partner country in Latin America.

Forest conservation came up at the dinner with Trump. Bolsonaro suffered broad international criticism last year when forest fires ravaged the Amazon rainforest. But the American president was not among those who publicly criticized Bolsonaro for the fires, instead complimenting his Brazilian counterpart in a tweet for “working very hard” to bring them under control.

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