Brazilian President Bolsonaro participates in Brazil-U.S. Business forum
By Lisandra Paraguassu
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro visited the CIA on Monday as he sought support from the Trump administration for his security agenda and courted the U.S. business community on his first official trip to Washington.
The three-day visit underscored Bolsonaro's embrace of U.S. influence in Latin America to confront what he calls a communist threat against democracy — a theme he remarked on at a dinner on Sunday evening with his ministers and right-wing thinkers.
In a gesture aimed at boosting tourism, Bolsonaro also waived a visa requirement for visitors from the United States in a decree published on Monday afternoon.
President Donald Trump will receive Bolsonaro at the White House on Tuesday, a meeting organized within weeks of the far-right leader's Jan. 1 inauguration after the two populist firebrands expressed mutual admiration for each other.
Their ideological common ground has raised expectations of greater cooperation between the two biggest countries in the Americas, although their aides have played down the potential for major breakthroughs on this first visit.
The United States will strengthen military ties with Brazil to a level usually reserved for NATO allies, Brazilian government officials said last week.
A half dozen ministers traveling with Bolsonaro are also preparing accords for collaboration on nuclear energy, aerospace and law enforcement, along with more open trade of agricultural goods.
Still, the Brazilians showed little interest in getting caught up in the U.S. trade war with China, which has long since replaced the United States as Brazil's biggest trade partner.
Economy Minister Paulo Guedes said on Monday in Washington that friendlier U.S. relations would do nothing to reduce Brazilian trade with China.
In a late edition of Brazil's official government gazette, Bolsonaro issued a decree waiving a visa requirement for visitors from the United States, Canada, Australia and Japan.
The U.S. government is not planning to reciprocate with a visa exemption for Brazilians, according to officials with knowledge of the matter.
Like Trump, Bolsonaro and his family have a penchant for breaking with protocol.
Presidential advisers, including his official spokesman, had said during the Sunday dinner that Bolsonaro's agenda on Monday morning would be kept private. But the president's son, Congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro, revealed the CIA visit in a Twitter post.
The president's office said the visit to the Central Intelligence Agency in Langley, Virginia, conveyed the importance that Bolsonaro places on "fighting organized crime and drug trafficking and the need to strengthen intelligence."
The CIA declined to comment.
Brazil is suffering from a wave of drug-related violence and homicides that Bolsonaro pledged to fight in his electoral campaign, though he has provided few details on how he will achieve this.
Bolsonaro was scheduled to meet later on Monday with former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and deliver remarks at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
(Reporting by Lisandra Paraguassu, Alexandra Alper and Jonathan Landay; additional reporting by Anthony Boadle in Brasilia; writing by Mary Milliken; editing by Rosalba O'Brien)