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Trump, Bolsonaro declare partnership

SIMILAR IDEALS:As the presidents exchanged compliments, Trump said that he might even designate Brazil as a NATO ally, but would ‘have to talk to a lot of people’ to do so

AFP, WASHINGTON

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, left, and US President Donald Trump attend a news conference in the White House’s Rose Garden in Washington on Tuesday.

Photo: EPA-EFE

US President Donald Trump on Tuesday heaped praise on Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro — and received plenty back — in announcing a special relationship that he said could even see the Latin American country join NATO.

At a joint news conference on the White House’s sun-soaked Rose Garden lawn, Trump and the man dubbed “Trump of the Tropics” let the mutual compliments flow.

“I have always admired the United States of America, and this sense of admiration has just increased after you took office and the presidency,” Bolsonaro said.

Trump, stressing Brazil’s partnership in the US-led campaign to force Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro from power, said Bolsonaro was “doing a fantastic job” and had “brought the country together.”

At the news conference, his condemnation of what he called “fake news” — opponents say he is referring merely to critical reports — and references to deeply conservative social values pleased Trump.

“We have many views that are similar,” Trump said.

Trump spent much of the news conference discussing efforts to squeeze Venezuela’s authorities, which he warned could face many more sanctions than those already imposed in an attempt to cripple the government’s finances.

Brazil, which shares a long border with Venezuela, is important in the strategy. In Bolsonaro, an ex-soldier who idolizes the former leaders of Brazil’s anti-communist military dictatorship, Trump has a ready ally against Maduro.

In return, Bolsonaro received one of the main items on his wish list: agreement for Brazil to be given NATO privileges.

This “major non-NATO ally” status would ease Brazil’s access to US weaponry and other military links, but in the sunny spirit of the occasion, Trump then went much further, stretching the diplomatic and geographical possibilities to a degree that surprised many.

“I also intend to designate Brazil as a major non-NATO ally or even possibly, if you start thinking about it, maybe a NATO ally,” Trump said.

NATO already has 29 member countries. None are from Latin America and none, like Brazil, are located in the South Atlantic.

“I have to talk to a lot of people,” Trump said of his idea.

Washington has had strained relations with Brazil’s long string of leftist governments, but the rise of Bolsonaro, who talks enthusiastically of combating socialists and communists, has opened a new door for the Trump administration.

A Trump-Bolsonaro bonding matters for Venezuela and for Washington’s pushback against growing Chinese economic influence in South America.

It could also have large-scale implications for the future of efforts to slow or reverse global warming: Brazil is home to much of the threatened Amazon rainforest and Bolsonaro, like Trump, is a climate change skeptic.

Trump has withdrawn the US from the Paris climate agreement, an international deal on cutting carbon emissions. Bolsonaro is toying with the idea of following suit.

On Monday, Bolsonaro signed an agreement with US companies on technical safeguards to allow commercial satellite launches from Brazil’s Alcantara base.

However, there are still major sticking points between the two countries, especially on trade, with Trump wanting Brazil to open up to more US products.

Whether what a White House official called a new north-south “axis” prospers would depend mostly on the personal relationship between its leaders.

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