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Biden Meets Bolsonaro

The two leaders have little in common other than a desire to look busy at the Summit of the Americas.

By , the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy.
A traffic officer walks past billboards denouncing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.
A traffic officer walks past billboards denouncing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.
A traffic officer walks past billboards denouncing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro near the Los Angeles Convention Center, the location for the ninth Summit of the Americas, in Los Angeles on June 7. Mario Tama/Getty Images

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, looking at the Biden-Bolsonaro summit, Somalia’s new president, and more news worth following from around the world.

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A Tense U.S.-Brazil Summit in LA

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, looking at the Biden-Bolsonaro summit, Somalia’s new president, and more news worth following from around the world.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


A Tense U.S.-Brazil Summit in LA

U.S. President Joe Biden hosts his Brazilian counterpart, Jair Bolsonaro, today for a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles.

The meeting was reportedly a prerequisite for Bolsonaro’s attendance at the summit, which has been plagued by absentees, as the Brazilian president attempts to show he can still play the statesman ahead of Brazil’s October presidential election.

It’s no secret that Bolsonaro would rather be sitting across former U.S. President Donald Trump today. The two right-wing leaders—and their families—became close during the former U.S. president’s term, sharing both a populist style and a solid base of evangelical, pro-gun voters.

In his statements ahead of October’s election, Bolsonaro is following the Trump playbook, casting doubt on the integrity of Brazil’s voting system. So much so that CIA director William Burns, Biden’s behind-the-scenes foreign-policy fixer, was dispatched last July to tell him to knock it off.

Oliver Stuenkel, an associate professor of international relations at the Getulio Vargas Foundation in São Paulo, has warned that Bolsonaro may not only copy Trump’s election rhetoric but also the methods of his supporters, who overran the U.S. seat of government on Jan. 6, 2021.

“Just like in the United States,” Stuenkel wrote in Foreign Policy in March, “countless Bolsonaro supporters are thus susceptible to considering a violent post-election insurrection not as an attack on democracy but as a heroic attempt to defend a righteous leader from a corrupted system.”

Bolsonaro has good reason to want to muddy the waters ahead of October, with poll after poll predicting a trouncing at the hands of former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the left-wing leader.

While Bolsonaro still holds office, he and Biden should still have plenty to discuss, despite the awkwardness of the meeting. Daniel Runde and Ryan Berg at the Center for Strategic and International Studies outlined an agenda for the two leaders, ranging from critical commodities to combatting illegal deforestation in the Amazon.

In a Twitter thread on Wednesday, Stuenkel predicted little would change between the two countries beyond the beneficial optics of the meeting: “Biden is unlikely to offer much to Bolsonaro because most analysts expect the Brazilian president to lose the election in October,” Stuenkel wrote. “Bolsonaro is unlikely to offer much because he thinks Biden will be a lame duck after the midterms.”


What We’re Following Today

Somalia’s new leader. Somalia swears in a new president today, as Hassan Sheikh Mohamud takes office following his selection by the Federal Parliament in May. Mohamud takes power as the country is battling an Islamist insurgency and facing a dire food crisis. On Tuesday, U.N. officials warned that Somalia was “on the brink of devastating and widespread hunger, starvation and death” and that the Horn of Africa would soon see “an explosion of child death” if international aid goals were not urgently met.

Iran tensions. Iran switched off two monitoring cameras at one of its uranium enrichment sites on Wednesday in apparent retaliation for the International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors’ decision to adopt a censure resolution put forward by Britain, France, Germany, and the United States.

That same day, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian sent a new proposal to U.S. officials in a bid to resolve an impasse over reviving the 2015 nuclear deal.


Keep an Eye On

Europe’s electric push. The European Parliament voted on Wednesday to effectively ban the manufacture of new gasoline- and diesel-powered cars by 2035 and to cut current carbon emissions by 55 percent for cars made in 2030. German auto industry lobby group VDA criticized the vote, saying charging infrastructure was not advanced enough and that synthetic fuels should still be considered by the cutoff point.

Belgium’s reckoning. In the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo on Wednesday, Belgian King Philippe acknowledged the violence, “paternalism, discrimination, and racism” inflicted on the Congo during Belgium’s colonial rule—but stopped short of a full apology. Congolese opposition leader Francine Muyumba Nkanga expressed her disappointment at the king’s comments, calling for an apology and reparations as “the price to definitively turn the page.”

FP columnist Howard French addressed Belgium’s brutal colonial legacy in the Congo, finding that the Western European country “still has considerable distance to travel before it can be said to not only have recognized the full truth of its imperial actions there but also, and even more importantly, to have made meaningful amends.”

Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

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