Bolsonaro tilts towards closer Brazil-US ties at meeting with Biden

US President Joe Biden (right) and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro attend a bilateral meeting at the 9th Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, California, June 9, 2022. (JIM WATSON / AFP)

LOS ANGELES – Brazil and the United States should forge closer ties after the two countries drifted apart for ideological reasons, Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro said on Thursday at a first official meeting with his US counterpart Joe Biden.

The hastily arranged meeting between the two came together after Biden reached out to Bolsonaro, a populist and admirer of ex-president Donald Trump, as Washington sought to shore up attendance at a summit roiled by a partial boycott.

A White House summary issued after the meeting said Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro and US President Joe Biden agreed to work together on preventing further deforestation of the Amazon

The two leaders sat in armchairs set slightly apart as reporters entered the room, and appeared to avoid eye contact while listening to each other via translators during their meeting at the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles.

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"We have a huge interest in getting closer and closer to the US," said Bolsonaro, who like Biden, largely looked ahead as his fellow leader was speaking.

"At times, we've distanced ourselves due to issues of ideology. But I'm sure that since our arrival in the Brazilian government we've never had greater opportunities because of the affinities that our governments have," Bolsonaro said.

A White House summary issued after the meeting said the two leaders agreed to work together on preventing further deforestation of the Amazon.

Questions over the merits of the meeting intensified after Bolsonaro on Tuesday again praised Trump, and called Biden's election "suspicious" in an echo of Trump's baseless allegations.

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Biden has sought to use the regional summit to repair Trump-era damage to US ties with Latin America.

For Bolsonaro, meanwhile, the meeting was an opportunity to boost his image as he heads into a tough re-election campaign.

President of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro attends a plenary session of the 9th Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, California, June 9, 2022. (CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP)

Beyond backing Trump, the former army captain has also raised doubts about Brazil's voting system, calling it liable to fraud without providing evidence. 

US President Joe Biden has sought to use the Summit of the Americas to repair Trump-era damage to US ties with Latin America

His attempts to discredit the elections in October have raised fears he might not accept defeat. Senior Biden administration officials have urged Bolsonaro not to undermine confidence in the electoral process. 

However, during the meeting Bolsonaro appeared to suggest he would accept the outcome of the Brazil election.

"I was elected by democracy and I am sure that when I leave the government, it will also be in a democratic way," he said.

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Bolsonaro also proposed working with Washington to craft a solution to the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

The two leaders agreed to "coordinate closely" at the United Nations Security Council over the conflict, according to the White House summary, but it offered no details.