Religious Right Excited By White House Visit of Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, ‘Trump of the Tropics’

Brazilian presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro (Image from Bolsonaro's Twitter feed)

President Trump is hosting Brazil’s new-this-year President Jair Bolsonaro—who proudly embraces the nickname “Trump of the Tropics”—at the White House on Tuesday. Bolsonaro’s candidacy was boosted and his election celebrated by the Religious Right and its political allies, as well as former White House official Steve Bannon. The Christian Broadcasting Network announced on Monday that Bolsonaro will sit down with CBN for an “exclusive interview” after his meeting with Trump; the interview will be featured on Wednesday’s “700 Club.”

The “Trump of the Tropics” nickname resonates because there are plenty of similarities. The far-right Bolsonaro has a history of treating women with contempt, ran as a right-wing populist, courted and won the support of the country’s evangelical leaders, denounces media as “fake news,” and was elected with the help of massive disinformation campaigns on social media.

Bolsonaro and his fans revel in his harsh rhetoric toward opponents and characterize criticism of such speech as “political correctness.” Bolsonaro is a fan of authoritarian rule, having not only defended but celebrated Chile’s murderous dictator Augusto Pinochet, as well as the torturers of the military dictatorship that ran Brazil from 1964 to 1985. He pledged a “cleansing” of his political opponents from the nation.  In the eyes of the Trump White House, as an official told reporters on Monday, this election “broke all the historic taboos.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo represented the U.S. at Bolsonaro’s inauguration; he publicly praised Bolsonaro and gave him a hug.

As we noted in January a week after his New Year’s Day inauguration, President Bolsonaro “didn’t waste much time issuing executive orders and taking other actions going after the people he had targeted in his campaign rhetoric: the LGBTQ communityindigenous peopledescendants of former slavescivil servants deemed not on board with Bolsonaro’s ideological agendanonprofit organizations; and the media.” Like Trump, Bolsonaro has promised to follow Trump in moving his country’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and he is thinking about pulling out of the Paris Climate agreement.

Trump-boosting “prophet” Cindy Jacobs has portrayed Bolsonaro’s election as another sign that “God is releasing the game-changers to shift governments.” Anti-LGBTQ activist Brian Brown celebrated Bolsonaro’s “stripping the nation’s human rights ministry of authority to consider LGBT-specific issues as ‘human rights.’”

U.S. Religious Right leaders were praying for Bolsonaro—and not just praying. Former U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann recorded a video message to Brazilian Christians urging them to vote “only for a candidate for the president of Brazil who will support moving the Brazilian embassy to Jerusalem.” She was in Brazil in August with Mario Bramnick, a U.S.-based evangelical and president of the Latino Coalition for Israel. Bolsonaro’s son took part in their event. In December, Gramnick was back in Brazil, along with anti-LGBTQ activist Jim Garlow and Texas-based “prophet” Ramiro Peña, who met and prayed with president-elect Bolsonaro.

Aside from supporting Bolsonaro, Religious Right groups and the Koch brothers’ political networks are active in Brazil, promoting culture-war leaders and materials, as well as a constellation of right-wing think tanks.

Update: Televangelist Pat Robertson announced on Tuesday that he and other Religious Right leaders are heading to DC to meet with and pray for Bolsonaro.