As tensions in Venezuela heighten, Marco Rubio says US should 'go big' on its relationship with Brazil's new right-wing president

  • In a column for CNN, Florida senator Marco Rubio said the US must go “big” on Brazil and strengthen its relationship with Jair Bolsonaro, the country’s far-right president.
  • Brazil, Rubio argued, can be a “force multiplier” in addressing the crisis in Venezuela.
  • Rubio suggested that the US should support Brazil’s ascension to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and its space capabilities.
  • The US, Rubio said, should capitalise on Brazil’s new right-wing government, saying previous leftist governments in the country “undermined” its economic and political stability.

Marco Rubio has long been considered Donald Trump’s point person on Latin American policy. On Tuesday, the Florida Republican wrote a column for CNN, making the case for why the US should go “big on Brazil.”

“For the peace and stability of the region, it is crucial that the United States capitalise on this historic opportunity to bring closer together the two most populous nations in the Western Hemisphere,” Rubio wrote.

A Brazil that is more “closely aligned” with the US can be a “force multiplier” in the region, Rubio wrote. He said that such a partnership could help the US address the growing political crisis in Venezuela and help counter “the malign intentions of authoritarian regimes like China, Russia and Iran that intend to expand their presence and activities in Latin America.”

Rubio argued that it is time for the US to heighten its relationship with Brazil now that the country is run by right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro.

Brazil is the second largest economy in the Western hemisphere and was the US’s 12th largest trading partner in 2016. Rubio said the economic relationship has to be strengthened in order to “create a framework of support to developing countries in the hemisphere.”

“Together, we can help wean small countries off their dependence on Venezuelan oil, which helps create dependency on the regime of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, a state sponsor of drug trafficking (though it denies this),” he said. “At the same time, this partnership will likely increase cooperation and technology sharing.”

Rubio’s words come days after he helped secure the US’s support for Juan Guaidó, the Venezuelan opposition leader who last week was named interim president of Venezuela as the political crisis in the nation rages on. America’s acknowledgement of Guiadó as Venezuela’s rightful leader angered Nicolás Maduro, who then broke diplomatic relations between the two nations. The US has also set sanctions against the state-owned oil company in the country, an economic move that will likely increase pressure on Maduro.

Now, Rubio is asking for greater cooperation between the US and Brazil to heighten America’s influence in the South American continent. In his article, Rubio said the Trump Administration should move quickly to advance goals that he said would be welcomed by Jair Bolsonaro’s government.

Some suggestions to deepen ties floated by the senator included: strengthening the intelligence and defence ties between the two countries, increasing trade, expanding US access to Brazil’s space industry, and supporting Brazil’s ascension to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) membership.


Read more:
A look at the campaign proposals made by Brazil’s Bolsonaro

Previous leftist governments in Brazil, Rubio wrote, heavily undermined the country’s economy and political stability, leading to higher inflation and increased poverty. Before Bolsonaro, Brazil had been run by a series of left-wing politicians who ended up entangled in corruption charges and, in Luiz Ignacio Lula’s case, imprisoned.

“Bolsonaro’s new administration presents an opportunity to ensure a stronger and strategic alliance with our nation that could benefit the Brazilian people,” Rubio said.

Bolsonaro was elected in October in a landslide vote that signified Brazil’s rejection of the left-wing party that left the nation in political chaos following multiple corrupt administrations. He beat Fernando Haddad, a mentee of Luiz Lula, in a run-off election, winning 55% of votes.

In his piece, Rubio failed to address Bolsonaro’s history of misogynistic, racist, homophobic, and militaristic views. Dubbed the “Brazilian Donald Trump,” Bolsonaro has been heavily criticised for his incendiary far-right politics and outrageous remarks.

In 2011, Bolsonaro said he’d rather have his son die than be gay. In 2014, he said a female colleague was too ugly to be raped and once described Afro-Brazilians as lazy and fat. In the 1990s, Bolsonaro said he favoured a dictatorship in the South American nation.

“President Bolsonaro’s new administration offers a fresh opportunity to build a stronger US-Brazilian partnership to ensure continued peace and expanded prosperity and stability for the Western Hemisphere,” Rubio said. “The United States must seize this opportunity.”

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