Jair Bolsonaro, President of Brazil, visited the headquarters of the CIA at Langley on 18 March as part of his official visit to the United States, his first trip since his appointment in January. He was accompanied by his son, Eduardo and his Justice Minister, Sėrgio Moro. Visits of this sort are not usually controversial. All governments use them. They are an inexpensive way to make distinguished foreign guests feel that little bit more special. (Although, for those of us who have had to conduct such tours they can be right pain in the butt).
However, in this case, the visit has stirred quite a bit of trouble. A former military officer and populist, Bolsonaro is just about the most far-right President that Brazil has ever had. In many ways he is a character straight out of the Donald Trump playbook and has announced plans to give agribusinesses a free hand in exploiting what is left of the Amazon in order to boost Brazil’s economic development. He was the first Brazilian President to ever visit Langley and proudly trumpeted the trip on his son’s Twitter account.
But the work of the CIA is especially sensitive in Brazil. The CIA has its largest South American presence in the country and has frequently meddled in Brazilian politics in the past. The CIA is currently supporting US attempts to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela and in Brazil there are suspicions that the CIA is trying to co-ordinate military intervention by neighbouring South American states including Brazil. A former Brazilian Foreign Minister, Celso Amorim, described the Bolsonaro’s visit as “an expicitly submissive position.” In the long run, this visit to Langley may not have done much for Bolsonaro’s domestic popularity.