US President Joe Biden and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro held their first face-to-face meeting Thursday on the sidelines of the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles.

The hastily arranged meeting between the two followed Biden reaching out to Bolsonaro, a populist and admirer of ex-presdient Donald Trump, as Washington sought to shore up attendance at a summit overshadowed by a political boycott

Bolsonaro, meanwhile, is on the domestic campaign trail against an election opponent, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who was famed for frosty ties with the US during his tenure and his support for precisely the governments the US excluded from its summit — left wing Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela. 

At the forefront were Brazil’s efforts to preserve the Amazon Rainforest and the upcoming Brazilian presidential elections in October.

What did the two leaders say?

“We have a wealth in the heart of Brazil — our Amazon, which is bigger than Western Europe, with incalculable riches, biodiversity, mineral wealth, drinking water and oxygen sources,” Bolsonaro said during the meeting.

“Sometimes we feel that our sovereignty is threatened in that area but Brazil preserves its territory well,” he added. “On the environmental issue we have our difficulties but we do defend our interests.”

Deforestation of the Amazon has increased under Bolsonaro, with the Brazilian leader clawing back environmental protections. The rainforest is seen as playing a crucial role in soaking up carbon dioxide emissions, acting as a bulwark against climate change.

“I think the rest of the world should be able to help you preserve as much as you can,” Biden said.

The White House said following the meeting that the two leaders vowed to prevent further deforestation of the region. 

Biden hails Brazil’s ‘vibrant, inclusive democracy,’ as Bolsonaro cries fraud

Regarding Brazil’s upcoming elections, Biden lauded the Latin American country’s “vibrant, inclusive democracy and strong electoral institutions.”

Bolsonaro has cast doubt on the country’s election system as he trails in the polls. The Brazilian leader’s claims have drawn alarm internationally, as Bolsonaro has also praised Brazil’s former military dictatorship.

Recent polling suggests former leftist leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva currently has the edge over Bolsonaro in the campaign amid high inflation and after a botched federal response to the pandemic.

“We do wish to have honest, clean, transparent, auditable, reliable elections,” Bolsonaro said, so that there is no “shadow of a doubt whatsoever following the elections.”

“I came to office through democracy and I am quite certain when I leave office it will also be through democratic means,” the Brazilian leader said.

He also seemed to imply he was confident of victory in October by telling journalists “I think we’ll have more meetings soon” after Thursday’s talks with Biden. This would be considerably less likely if his time in office is numbered, given that their first face-to-face encounter only took place well over two years into Biden’s presidency. 

wd/msh (Reuters, AFP)

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