(Bloomberg) — Former President Donald J. Trump threw his weight behind his protege Jair Bolsonaro, officially endorsing the Brazilian leader’s stagnated bid for another four-year term.
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“‘Tropical Trump’ as he is affectionately called, has done a GREAT job for the wonderful people of Brazil,” Trump wrote on his social media site, Truth Social. “When I was President of the U.S., there was no other country leader who called me more than Jair.”
A former congressman and one-time army captain, Bolsonaro, 67, shook Brazil’s political establishment in 2018, winning the presidency in what was initially considered a long-shot campaign. Foul-mouthed and social media-savvy, the right-wing populist modeled his image after Trump’s and won over voters with a promise to root out corruption and be tough on crime.
In the current race, the incumbent is trailing his leftist rival, former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, 76, in all major opinion polls. Brazilians have largely grown frustrated with bellicose rhetoric, and soaring prices of staple goods like food have raised doubts on Bolsonaro’s ability to run Latin America’s largest economy.
Read more: Brazil Cash Handouts and Angry Debate Fail to Dent Lula Lead
With the first round of voting slated for Oct. 2, it’s unlikely Trump’s support will do much to change Brazilians’ minds this late in the election season. If a candidate doesn’t win more than 50% of the vote, the race will go to a runoff.
The US has a standing policy not to pick a side in other nations’ elections, saying that votes must reflect the desires of their population. Still, presidents have violated that rule and made little secret of their preferred outcomes, as when Barack Obama voiced his opposition to Brexit before the vote and Bill Clinton threw US support behind Boris Yeltsin’s re-election in 1996.
“President Bolsonaro loves Brazil beyond all else,” Trump wrote. “He is a wonderful man, and has my Complete & Total Endorsement!!!”
Both Brazil’s political opposition and international allies worry that Bolsonaro will follow Trump’s lead further and contest the results of the elections. In recent months, Bolsonaro has intensified false claims that his nation’s electronic voting system is likely to be rigged.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters yesterday that the US will monitor Brazil’s elections “with full expectations that they will be conducted in a free, fair, and credible manner with all relevant institutions operating in accordance with their constitutional role.”
(Updates with candidates ages, details on Brazilian election beginning in third paragraph.)
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