Bolsonaro, Biden hold tense meeting at Summit of the Americas

President Biden held an awkward meeting Thursday with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, an outspoken supporter of former President Donald Trump who has raised doubts about Mr. Biden’s election victory in 2020.

The two leaders didn’t shake hands on camera at the start of their meeting in Los Angeles, just as Mr. Bolsonaro had vowed not to do before arriving at the Summit of the Americas. It was the first time they’d met.

Mr. Bolsonaro, who is up for reelection this year, spoke directly to his TV audience in Brazil for most of his remarks on camera with Mr. Biden. He criticized COVID-19 lockdowns, saying, “The consequences of the pandemic with the mistaken ‘stay at home’ police, aggravated by a war 10,000 kilometers away from Brazil, the economic consequences are harmful for all of us in Brazil.”

He also defended his decision not to join the global coalition against Russia for the war in Ukraine, a priority for Mr. Biden.

“We want peace and we will do everything for peace to be achieved,” Mr. Bolsonaro said. “We regret the conflicts, but I have a country to manage and due to its dependence [on trade], we must always be cautious.”

Mr. Biden often looked down as Mr. Bolsonaro spoke, and didn’t engage in eye contact with the Brazilian leader.

Mr. Bolsonaro did say his government has “a huge interest in getting closer and closer to the U.S.”

“We [have] almost 200 years in partnership. At times, we distance ourselves due to issues of ideology,” he said.

For his part, Mr. Biden said he has confidence in Brazil’s democratic system.

“Brazil is a wonderful place, people because of the vibrant and inclusive democracy and strong election institutions,” he said.

Before traveling to the U.S., Mr. Bolsonaro spoke with some contempt about Mr. Biden.

“With Trump, everything was going very well,”  he said. “When Biden came in, there was just a freeze. … I saw him at the G-20 [summit], he passed by as if I didn’t exist. … I don’t know if it’s his age, or what it is. I will have a bilateral with him. I will enforce what Brazil represents to the world. … I’m not going to smile and shake hands or appear in a photo. I’m going to solve issues. I’m the president of Brazil and will not, as some want, accept an international agenda to look good.”

Mr. Bolsonaro is seeking U.S. support to finance programs to protect Brazil’s Amazon rainforest.

“Our environmental legislation is very strict and we do our best to comply with it for the good of our country,” he said. “We may soon be the biggest exporter of clean energy via green hydrogen.”

He also touted Brazil’s agricultural production, saying, “The world today I dare say depends a lot on Brazil for its survival.”

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