Biden, Bolsonaro to hold first formal talks at regional summit

US president will meet Brazilian counterpart on sidelines of Summit of the Americas, Biden administration official says.

Jair Bolsonaro
Brazil's far-right President Jair Bolsonaro was one of the last world leaders to acknowledge former US President Donald Trump's 2020 election defeat to Joe Biden [File: Guga Matos/Reuters]

United States President Joe Biden will hold his first formal talks with Brazilian counterpart Jair Bolsonaro at next week’s Summit of the Americas, a senior US official has said, stressing the importance of the US-Brazil relationship.

Biden’s top Latin America adviser, Juan Gonzalez, on Wednesday confirmed the two leaders would meet in Los Angeles.

After signalling he might skip the summit, Bolsonaro said last week that he would attend and meet Biden on the sidelines, despite what he called a “freeze” in Brazil-US ties since Biden took office in January 2021.

Asked if Biden would raise concerns about Bolsonaro’s questioning of Brazil’s voting system, Gonzalez said only that the United States “does have confidence in Brazil’s electoral institutions which have proven robust”.

Bolsonaro, a far-right populist and one of the last world leaders to acknowledge Biden’s presidential victory, for months has claimed without any evidence that the country’s electronic voting system is susceptible to fraud.

Judicial and other experts have rejected the allegation, accusing the president of seeking to sow doubt ahead of Brazil’s October elections in a bid to contest the results – similar to former US President Donald Trump, whom Bolsonaro has emulated.

Bolsonaro is facing a stiff challenge from former left-wing President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who, recent polls show, has a considerable lead in the race.

“The issue of the Brazilian elections is really up for the Brazilians to decide,” Gonzalez said during a news conference to preview the summit agenda.

He said talks between Biden and Bolsonaro would cover a broad spectrum of bilateral and global issues “given the importance of the US-Brazil relationship”.

“There is a very long list of issues that are going to be up for discussion,” Gonzalez said.

The Biden administration is hoping to use the Summit of the Americas to build a coalition to tackle pressing challenges in the region, most notably a surge in migration toward the US.

But Washington has faced criticism in the lead-up to the meeting after it signalled that the governments of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela were unlikely to attend, citing their respective human rights records and other issues.

That has thrown the attendance list into question.

Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has said that he does not want to attend the summit unless every country in the region is invited, and it remains unclear if he will travel to Los Angeles.

“Is it going to be the Summit of the Americas or is it going to be the friends of America summit?” the Mexican leader said on Friday.

Biden sent his special adviser for the meeting, former Senator Chris Dodd, to Brazil last week to convince Bolsonaro to go to the gathering, which the US is hosting for the first time since its inaugural session in 1994.

The offer of a bilateral meeting with Biden helped sway Bolsonaro, the Reuters news agency reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

Source: Al Jazeera, Reuters