Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro confirmed Thursday that he would travel to Los Angeles in June for the Summit of the Americas and said he planned to meet American counterpart Joe Biden in person, adding that Biden treated him “as if I didn’t exist” during their last meeting, blaming the snub on “age.”
Reports had previously indicated that Bolsonaro – a staunch conservative whom Biden has repeatedly antagonized, including with a threat to destroy the Brazilian economy during a presidential debate in 2020 – would not attend the Summit due to unclear reasons. Many speculated that Biden’s poor diplomacy with Bolsonaro was a contributing factor.
The Summit, scheduled to take place the week of June 6, is the first of its kind since 2018 and intends to bring together members of the Organization of American States (OAS). Independent of a potential boycott by Brazil, South America’s largest economy, the leaders of several leftist Latin American countries are threatening to boycott the event if Biden does not invite Cuba to the summit.
The OAS Charter requires member states to be democracies, and Cuba never attended a Summit before President Barack Obama insisted on extending an invitation. Cuba used its appearances at the 2015 and 2018 Summits of the Americas to organize violent mobs to shut down discussions on promoting democracy.
Bolsonaro is one of the loudest opponents of the Cuban regime and communism in general in the region; no reports indicated that his potential absence from the upcoming event was related to potential boycotts by leftist nations.
Bolsonaro told reporters on Thursday that Biden had sent “a person especially to talk to me” – apparently referring to former senator and current White House special adviser on the summit Chris Dodd – about attending, and that he had agreed to do so.
“He sent someone especially to talk to me and I put my cards on the table there,” Bolsonaro said. “Itamaraty [the Brazilian Foreign Affairs Ministry] personnel were there, [Foreign Minister] Carlos França, I spoke about the change in the United States’ behavior towards Brazil when Biden took over.”
“With Trump, everything was very good,” Bolsonaro continued. “We had a lot of things planned to do for Brazil, adding value to Brazil … when Biden came in, there was simply a freezing [of relations]. On my part, I didn’t change policies with him.”
Bolsonaro then added that he would meet Biden for a bilateral exchange during his upcoming time in the United States and recalled his last encounter.
“I met with him at the G-20 [summit in October] and he passed me by as if I didn’t exist,” Bolsonaro said, “but that is how he treated everyone, I don’t know if it’s his age.”
Bolsonaro added that he was not going to America “to smile, shake hands, and appear in a photo – I am going to solve problems.”
“I was inclined to not go. I can’t go, given Brazil’s size, just to be a frame in a picture,” he concluded.
The American embassy in Brasilia confirmed on Wednesday that Dodd, Biden’s representative, had met with Bolsonaro, publishing a statement from Dodd himself.
“President Joe Biden asked me to travel to Brazil today with a singular focus on the Summit,” Dodd wrote. “I came to reinforce our longstanding appreciation for the deep and consequential partnership that our two countries share, built on a common foundation of democracy, human rights, economic prosperity, the rule of law, and security.”
“This morning in my meeting with President Bolsonaro, I reiterated our hope that Brazil will be an active Summit participant, as we honor a collective responsibility to forge a more inclusive and prosperous future,” Dodd concluded, leaving open-ended the question of Bolsonaro’s presence at the event.
França, the Brazilian foreign minister, had previously expressed Bolsonaro’s concerns that the summit would not yield any meaningful policy action and that he was thus not interested in attending. According to the Brazilian newspaper O Globo, Bolsonaro was concerned about poor attendance at the summit and that Washington would ignore the topics most important to the Brazilian government, namely the recovery of regional economies following two years of Chinese coronavirus-driven lockdown measures. Bolsonaro has been one of the most vocal world leaders against the implementation of economic lockdowns and social distancing measures, though as president of a country governed by a federalist system he did not have the power to stop many governors from imposing such policies.
Bolsonaro confirmed his attendance on the same day the U.S. State Department confirmed that the dictatorships of Venezuela and Nicaragua would not receive invitations, potentially jeopardizing the presence of leftist leaders from Mexico, Bolivia, Honduras, and a set of small Caribbean states largely dependent on the Venezuelan socialist regime for oil. Reports indicate that Biden has not yet decided on inviting the communist Castro regime, despite its history of violence and disturbances at past Summits.