The 35-year-old youngest son of the Brazilian president is a lawyer and worked in a low-ranking post in the federal police — dealing mainly with paperwork instead of field operations — before starting his career as a federal congressman in 2015. He may now have the chance to become one of the highest-profile members of his father’s administration, serving a much-sought-after position in the United States.
In response to the reports, he announced he would accept the post if offered, and tried to counter the attacks of nepotism by citing his apparent qualification: that he flipped burgers in the United States as an exchange student. In Brazil, the elite’s children are raised with little contact with domestic work. For wealthy youngsters, traveling abroad to gain “life experience” — which often means engaging in low-paid work, to wash dishes and clothes — is a kind of rite of passage.
But the real rationale behind this impending appointment has little to do with his actual qualifications or experience in the United States, and much to do with the pivotal role he plays in the ideological authoritarian “bromance” between President Trump and President Bolsonaro. In public appearances, Eduardo Bolsonaro has worn clothes invoking Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan. In his first visit to the United States, the president took his son to the White House. Before that, Eduardo Bolsonaro had personally met with former White House adviser Stephen K. Bannon. He also attended a Trumpettes meeting, in which he declared, onstage, to support the wall on the U.S. border with Mexico — a subject that contributes nothing to Brazilian diplomacy.
Moreover, Eduardo Bolsonaro has reportedly shown sympathy toward the possibility of allying with the United States to use military force against the regime of Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela. Bolsonaro’s position on Venezuela has resulted in Maduro’s foreign ministry classifying the U.S.-Brazil relationship as "neofascist alliance” and brought Brazil one step closer to conflict with a neighbor. This has Eduardo’s fingerprints all over it, as he is known to be his father’s most important foreign policy adviser.
In this context, having Eduardo Bolsonaro as Brazil’s ambassador in Washington is excellent news for the Trump administration. Instead of dealing with the pragmatic diplomacy practiced by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ highly trained bureaucracy, the U.S. government will deal with an enthusiastic supporter when negotiating its economic and political interests.
Bolsonaro must be aware that appointing his son is not just diplomatically fraught but also politically risky: According to the latest poll in June, Bolsonaro’s popularity has sunk to the lowest point in the post-dictatorship period, with 32 percent of the Brazilian population disapproving of the government. During the electoral campaign, he appeared in a video saying that the main problem of Brazil was patronage, particularly the excessive personal and family ties that perpetuated in official posts. Despite the accusations of nepotism and hypocrisy, Bolsonaro now seems convinced that appointing his son is key to strengthening diplomatic links with the United States, Trumpism and far-right politics.
Eduardo Bolsonaro’s vision of the world is shaped by the ideas of Olavo de Carvalho, a sort of tropical Rasputin, and Bannon, a global leader of the nationalist crusade that is gaining momentum across the globe. The Bolsonaros believe they are in a war against globalism and Marxism and in defense of so-called Western values. They see Trump as the leader of this conservative and populist movement, and seem to be willing to almost blindly follow him. Though they are restricted by the Brazilian army — whose worldview continues to be more pragmatic — and Brazil’s constitution and institutions — whose existence is being severely tested — they are doing their utmost to ally themselves firmly with Trump and the movement he represents. Eduardo Bolsonaro’s appointment is just one part of this broader push.
This is certainly one of the lowest points in Brazil’s diplomatic history. The younger Bolsonaro is not a career diplomat, nor does he have an academic background in international relations. His only credential is that he is the son of the president, something that lowers Brazil to the condition of a banana republic. And it might not even be the strangest foreign policy decision Jair Bolsonaro will make while in power.
If all this sounds bizarre, just wait for President Bolsonaro’s speech at the next United Nations General Assembly. Be prepared for the worst — and you might still be too optimistic.