The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill
Not long after the second anniversary of the horrific violence at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, Brazil’s political institutions suffered a similarly violent attempted insurrection, when supporters of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro overran the Brazilian Congress, Presidential Palace, and Supreme Court on Jan. 8.
It is clear that, just like the United States exported the belief in democratic values during the Cold War, now, sadly, it is also showing the world how to challenge free and fair elections.
The country’s current president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, won the presidency in October. By all accounts, he ran a fair campaign last year and is the legitimately elected president of Brazil.
Bolsonaro is currently in Florida where it seems he is trying to create distance — both physical and metaphorical — between himself and the actions of his most ardent followers this past Sunday. Regardless of if Bolsonaro directly gave an order in writing for what took place in Brasilia, he undoubtedly led the charge in spirit through his failure to publicly concede and admit his defeat in October’s elections.
The Biden State Department has made it clear that an individual who has entered the country on an “A” visa for diplomats and foreign government officials must apply for a standard civilian visa upon the expiration of their “A” visa if they are no longer in government. While the State Department intentionally did not name Bolsonaro, their insinuation was clear — Bolsonaro better get his paperwork in order and hope for the best.
Ultimately, Bolsonaro should not be given the chance at such a dignified departure and should instead be picked up by U.S. federal authorities in Florida and extradited to Brasília. Such action by the Biden administration would serve to buy goodwill with current Brazilian president Lula, as he is commonly known in Brazil.
Over the years, Brazil has developed closer ties with China — now its biggest trade partner — a troubling development both for U.S. security and economic interests in the Western Hemisphere. With Brazil being the second-largest country in the Western Hemisphere, it is essential for the United States to improve ties with the largest country in Latin America and the world’s fourth-largest democracy.
If the United States is to successfully counter the progress made by China via its Belt and Road Initiative, a good starting point is in assisting regional partners in their efforts to enact the rule of law at home and stabilize their democratic systems of governance. Sending Bolsonaro packing would emphasize that the United States believes in Brazilian democracy, something which Chinese officials cannot honestly say as debt-trap diplomacy and exploiting democratic deficits is sadly how the Belt and Road Initiative tends to advance its footprint in frontier and emerging markets.
For decades, Brazil has been derisively known as “the country of the future … and it always will be.” Something good must come from this blinding darkness, a light must shine through to awaken Brazil’s better angels.
To say that the United States’ legacy in Latin America is complicated would be an understatement. For decades, the United States has several times treated many regional partners with condescension, mistrust, and neglect. If the United States wants to credibly claim leadership on the world stage, it must start to demonstrate such leadership closest to home in respecting its regional partners. Why not start with Brazil?
J.P. Carroll is a senior fellow for national security and inclusive governance at the Joseph Rainey Center for Public Policy. He is also the former deputy director of Hispanic media at the Republican National Committee.
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva