Declaring not just sympathy but outright admiration for a fascist who has threatened violence against his leftist political opponents, celebrated the use of torture, and promised to give the police free rein to murder at will, U.S. national security adviser John Bolton on Thursday praised Brazil’s newly elected strongman President Jair Bolsonaro as a “like-minded” partner who shares the Trump administration’s commitment to so-called “free market principles.”
“John Bolton just came to Miami’s Freedom Tower and gave a speech praising Jair Bolsonaro, the wannabe Brazilian neofascist who wants to bring back the country’s dictatorship, torture people, and kill dissidents.”
—Jerry Iannelli, Miami New Times
“The recent elections of like-minded leaders in key countries, including Ivan Duque in Colombia, and last weekend Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, are positive signs for the future of the region, and demonstrate a growing regional commitment to free-market principles, and open, transparent, and accountable governance,” Bolton said during a speech at Miami-Dade College.
“[T]oday, in this hemisphere, we are also confronted once again with the destructive forces of oppression, socialism, totalitarianism,” Bolton added.
But Bolton went on to proclaim that with the rise of Bolsonaro, “the Troika of Tyranny in this hemisphere—Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua—has finally met its match,” coining a phrase that immediately drew comparisons to former President George W. Bush’s infamous “Axis of Evil” line, which was used repeatedly to justify America’s disastrous invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Vox‘s Alex Ward described Bolton’s remarks as a “modern-day ‘Axis of Evil’ speech.”
Intensifying fears that the Trump administration could be considering military action against Latin American nations it has deemed enemies, Bolton announced that the White House plans to take “direct action against” Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua “to defend the rule of law, liberty, and basic human decency in our region.”
Shortly after celebrating the ascent of Bolsonaro—whose promise to pry open Brazilian markets, accelerate the corporate plunder of the Amazon rainforest, and privatize his nation’s public services has also been met with unabashed giddiness by the global business community—Bolton righteously proclaimed that the United States “will not reward firing squads, torturers, and murderers,” despite its long and gruesome history of doing precisely that.
Completely ignoring Bolsonaro’s enthusiastic praise of Brazil’s 21-year military dictatorship—which came to power after a U.S.-backed coup in 1964—Bolton concluded that America will not “appease dictators and despots near our shores in this hemisphere.”
While Bolton’s effusive praise for Bolsonaro was met with revulsion by analysts and commentators, one former State Department official noted that his remarks are hardly cause for surprise.
“It is not surprising that Bolton and the U.S. government would see the president-elect of Brazil as an ally,” Jana Nelson, a Brazil desk officer at the State Department from 2010 to 2015, told Vox. “Jair Bolsonaro is an open admirer of Trump.”