Biden and Bolsonaro Meet for First Time at Summit
President Biden first met on Thursday with Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, the leader of the western hemisphere’s second largest country, in a face-to-face discussion that was one of the most anticipated of the Americas Ninth Summit.
The two leaders were merciful to each other in a photo op before the closed-door session.
“Brazil is a beautiful place with wonderful people,” said Mr Biden, noting that he had been lucky enough to visit the “beautiful country” three times in the past. He praised Brazil for making real sacrifices in an effort to protect the Amazon rainforest.
“I think the rest of the world should be able to help you keep as much as possible,” Biden told Bolsonaro.
The meeting had the potential to become one of the most tense of the week.
Mr. Bolsonaro is a close ally of former President Donald J. Trump and a supporter of many of the policies Mr. Biden has sought to combat. He has opened up the Amazon to more logging and mining, has made it easier to buy weapons in Brazil, the idea denigrated of transgender rights and brought Brazil closer to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.
But what worries US officials most is Mr. Bolsonaro’s efforts to question the reliability of Brazil’s voting systems ahead of the October presidential election, a contest in which polls say he is lagging. Bolsonaro has even questioned the legitimacy of Mr Biden’s election victory, mimicking Mr Trump’s rhetoric, even this week.
“I will not discuss the sovereignty of another country. But Trump did very well.” he said in a local media interview on Tuesday when asked about voter fraud allegations in the 2020 US election, which have been repeatedly debunked. “We don’t want that to happen in Brazil.”
Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, told reporters ahead of the meeting between the two leaders that no topic was off limits. “I expect the president to discuss open, free, fair and transparent democratic elections,” he said.
Sitting next to Mr Biden on Thursday, speaking in Portuguese, Mr Bolsonaro expressed concerns about his country’s democratic traditions.
“I came into office through democracy, and I’m pretty sure that when I resign my office it will be through democratic means too,” he said, according to an unofficial translation of his comments.
Several members of Congress had publicly urged Mr Biden to press mr. Bolsonaro to step up efforts to find Dom Phillips, a British journalist, and Bruno Pereira, a Brazilian indigenous expert, who went missing in the Amazon on Sunday after being threatened by illegal fishermen. The Brazilian government’s response has been widely criticized as slow and ineffective.
On Thursday, editors from many of the world’s largest news organizations, including The New York Times, sent a letter to Mr Bolsonaroand asked him to “act urgently and make every effort to locate Dom and Bruno.”