Nostalgia for coups past? Brazil’s Bolsonaro visits CIA before Trump on first US trip

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has made his geopolitical priorities clear, dropping by CIA headquarters for a clandestine chat on his first visit to the US before even meeting with President Donald Trump.

Bolsonaro’s visit was not published on his agenda and members of the press were barred at the door while the president and his justice minister, Sergio Moro, hobnobbed with the spooks at the agency’s Langley HQ.

Moro, as Ben Norton pointed out on Twitter, led Operation Car Wash – the “money laundering investigation” that resulted in former President Dilma Rousseff’s replacement with the US-linked Michel Temer.

The National Security Agency had been wiretapping Rousseff for years, WikiLeaks revealed, making it that much easy to replace her with a compliant patsy – whose weakness Bolsonaro could then use as a springboard for his own reactionary candidacy. As Glenn Greenwald pointed out, the right-wing government was no longer even trying to hide its allegiance to an agency that has thought nothing of overthrowing regimes it finds inconvenient in the past.

Praising the CIA as “one of the most respected intelligence agencies in the world,” Bolsonaro’s son Eduardo framed his father’s cozying up to the backers of the 1964 coup that pitched Brazil into two decades of military dictatorship as “an excellent opportunity to talk about international themes of the region.” 

But the Brazilians weren’t just there to reminisce about coups past. The agenda of the day was Venezuela, where Bolsonaro has thus far been reluctant to allow Trump to use his country as a staging ground for an invasion.

For the first time in a long time, a Brazilian president who is not un-American arrives in Washington,” Bolsonaro tweeted after landing in the US on Sunday, calling the visit “the beginning of a partnership focused on liberty and prosperity, something that all of us Brazilians have long wished for.”

No Brazilian president had ever paid a visit to the CIA,” former Brazilian foreign minister Celso Amorim told the AP, calling Bolsonaro’s move “an explicitly submissive position.”

The CIA, unsurprisingly, had no comment.

I have always dreamed of freeing Brazil from the dirty ideology of the left,” Bolsonaro declared on Sunday over dinner with Steve Bannon, whose far-right populist “Movement” his son has chosen to represent in South America. If not for his open praise of death squads past, it would be easy to dismiss such language as Trumpian rhetoric, but he has made no secret of his nostalgia for the military dictatorship under which he enthusiastically served, even calling for it to be reframed as a noble battle against communism in the history books. If one is planning a crackdown on leftists, however, the CIA is a reliable first stop. 

Helen Buyniski

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