Biden, Bolsonaro hold 1st meeting amid election worries

Jun 9, 2022, 5:57 PM | Updated: Jun 10, 2022, 4:48 am

LOS ANGELES (AP) — President Joe Biden avoided challenging Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro over his upcoming election and handling of the Amazon rainforest during the public portion of their first-ever meeting Thursday, while the Brazilian leader sounded a more defensive tone in addressing those issues.

The two had never met, or even spoken, before they took their seats in a room at the Los Angeles Convention Center, where Biden has been hosting a weeklong summit of leaders from the Western Hemisphere.

During the public portion of their meeting, Biden praised Brazil’s “vibrant, inclusive democracy and strong electoral institutions,” a show of support for a system Bolsonaro often criticizes.

Bolsonaro, who is up for reelection this year and faces a challenge from one of his predecessors, has been repeating baseless claims about his country’s voting systems in what some Brazilian analysts see as an attempt by Bolsonaro to cast doubt on the outcome if he loses in October.

Bolsonaro raised his upcoming election himself, striking a defensive tone as he did so.

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

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

Biden, who has been on the receiving end of baseless claims by former President Donald Trump that he lost to Biden because the election was stolen, has made promoting democratic institutions at home and abroad a core feature of his presidency.

Bolsonaro supported Trump, and was one of the last world leaders to congratulate Biden, waiting more than a month after the November 2020 election to do so.

The U.S. and Brazilian leaders met about an hour before a U.S. congressional committee in Washington opened the first in a series of televised public hearings into the violent attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, by angry supporters of Trump, who sought to delay certification of Biden’s defeat of the Republican in the November 2020 presidential election.

Before the meeting, Bolsonaro told journalists that it wasn’t supposed to happen.

“I wasn’t expected to come here. They sent a special envoy and we set the agenda,” he told journalists outside his Los Angeles hotel, speaking of the U.S. “It is well set, so we will show up. It is like a marriage; you accept my flaws, I accept yours and let’s be happy.”

Bolsonaro had said he would attend the U.S.-hosted Summit of the Americas only if Biden agreed to a private meeting and also refrained from confronting him over some of the most contentious issues between them, three Brazilian’s Cabinet ministers told The Associated Press this week.

He did not want to be criticized over Amazon deforestation or warned about his questioning of the Brazilian electoral system’s reliability as he prepares to campaign for reelection, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly..

But Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, told U.S. reporters who accompanied Biden to Los Angeles that no topic is ever off limits for the president. Sullivan said he anticipated that Biden would discuss “open, free, fair and transparent democratic elections” and that climate, including protecting the Amazon, would be among the topics of conversation.

In the meeting, Biden also offered kind words for Bolsonaro’s handling of the Amazon rainforest, praising Brazil for making some “real sacrifices” to protect the vast natural resource.

But Biden also suggested there’s more that can be done.

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

As a candidate for office, Biden had criticized Brazil for rising deforestation in the Amazon. After Biden took office, Bolsonaro’s administration worked to demonstrate commitment to reining in the destruction. Efforts included stepping up its pledges at the U.N. climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland, last year, and regular bilateral meetings with U.S. authorities.

But those conversations have stalled as data show continued deforestation. The most recent annual reading was the worst in 15 years. Bolsonaro has vowed to introduce mining, logging and other industries to the Amazon.

Addressing the Amazon, Bolsonaro again sounded defensive, telling Biden that “at times we feel threatened in our sovereignty in that region of the country. But the fact is that Brazil does very well preserve its territory.”

Biden and Bolsonaro, presidents of the hemisphere’s two largest democracies, met for about 45 minutes, the White House said. They did not shake hands in front of journalists who witnessed their public comments.

Unlike during a meeting Biden had earlier Thursday with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the U.S. and Brazilian delegations wore face coverings.

A member of Bolsonaro’s delegation had tested positive for COVID-19 and missed the meeting, a White House official said. Since other members of the delegation were considered “close contacts,” the official said, the Brazilians were asked to wear masks and U.S. officials did the same.

The White House official requested anonymity to discuss the planning for the meeting.

Bolsonaro himself had flouted health restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic and proudly insisted he would not get vaccinated against the virus. He continues to say he has not received the vaccine, and has had his vaccination record sealed for 100 years.

Superville reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Mauricio Savares in Sao Paolo, Brazil, contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


(Facebook Photo/City of San Luis, Arizona)...
Associated Press

San Luis authorities receive complaints about 911 calls going across border

Authorities in San Luis say they are receiving more complaints about 911 calls mistakenly going across the border.
5 days ago
(Pexels Photo)...
Associated Press

Daylight saving time begins in most of US this weekend

No time change is observed in Hawaii, most of Arizona, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Marianas.
13 days ago
Mexican army soldiers prepare a search mission for four U.S. citizens kidnapped by gunmen in Matamo...
Associated Press

How the 4 abducted Americans in Mexico were located

The anonymous tip that led Mexican authorities to a remote shack where four abducted Americans were held described armed men and blindfolds.
13 days ago
Tom Brundy points to a newly built irrigation canal on one of the fields at his farm Tuesday, Feb. ...
Associated Press

Southwest farmers reluctant to idle farmland to save water

There is a growing sense that fallowing will have to be part of the solution to the increasingly desperate drought in the West.
20 days ago
A young bison calf stands in a pond with its herd at Bull Hollow, Okla., on Sept. 27, 2022. The cal...
Associated Press

US aims to restore bison herds to Native American lands after near extinction

U.S. officials will work to restore more large bison herds to Native American lands under a Friday order from Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.
20 days ago
Children play in a dried riverbed in Flassans-sur-Issole, southern France, Wednesday, March 1, 2023...
Associated Press

Italy, France confront 2nd year of western Europe drought

ROME (AP) — Bracing for Italy’s second consecutive year of drought for the first time in decades, Premier Giorgia Meloni huddled with ministers Wednesday to start mapping out an action plan Wednesday, joining France and other nations in western Europe grappling with scant winter rain and snow. Meloni and her ministers decided to appoint an […]
22 days ago

Sponsored Articles

(Pexels Photo)...

Sports gambling can be fun for adults, but it’s a dangerous game for children

While adults may find that sports gambling is a way to enhance the experience with more than just fandom on the line, it can be a dangerous proposition if children get involved in the activity.
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
Biden, Bolsonaro hold 1st meeting amid election worries