Nearly 55 years after the CIA backed a coup d'état that overthrew Brazil's democratically-elected government, the nation's right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro raised eyebrows on Monday with an unusual and unannounced trip to the spy agency's U.S. headquarters.
Bolsonaro is officially in town to meet with President Donald Trump on Tuesday, the Brazilian's first bilateral meeting with a head of state since taking office in January. His visit to CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia was revealed by his son, Eduardo Bolsonaro, in a tweet on Monday morning.
Eduardo, who is a member of Brazil's congress and accompanied his father on the visit, said in Portuguese: "Going now with the PR @jairbolsonaroe ministers to the CIA, one of the world's most respected intelligence agencies. It will be an excellent opportunity to talk about international issues in the region with technicians and experts of the highest caliber."
Indo agora com o PR @jairbolsonaroe ministros para a CIA, uma das agências de inteligência mais respeitadas do mundo. Será uma excelente oportunidade de conversar sobre temas internacionais da região com técnicos e peritos do mais alto gabarito.
— Eduardo Bolsonaro (@BolsonaroSP) March 18, 2019
As Reuters reported:
The 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 during a dinner on Sunday evening with his ministers and right-wing thinkers.
Presidential advisers, including his official spokesman, had said during the dinner that his agenda on Monday morning would be kept private.
Bolosnaro's justice minister, Sérgio Moro, came along for the trip to the agency, but members of the media were not allowed inside, according to The Associated Press.
"No Brazilian president had ever paid a visit to the CIA," Celso Amorim, a Bolsonaro critic who served as foreign minister under former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, told the AP. "This is an explicitly submissive position. Nothing compares to this."
At their Tuesday meeting, Trump and Bolsonaro—who have maintained a publicly cozy relationship—are expected to discuss military and economic ties between their countries, and the political crisis in Venezuela. Both leaders have recognized Venezuela's self-declared "Interim President" Juan Guaidó, who has spent weeks trying to oust President Nicolás Maduro based on claims that his latest election was illegitimate.
Bolsonaro's visit to the CIA—which has a long history of meddling in Latin American politics and overthrowing democratically-elected governments—comes amid mounting concerns of foreign military intervention in Venezuela, as Maduro has hung on to power in spite of "strangling" economic sanctions imposed by the Trump administration.
"The Trump administration's single-minded goal is to persuade South American allies to join the U.S. in imposing crippling economic sanctions on Venezuela," Alexander Main of the Center for Economic and Policy Research said Monday. "There are also signs that Trump and his team—which now includes hawkish Iran-Contra hand Elliott Abrams—would like to see Venezuela's neighbors, Colombia and Brazil, intervene militarily in Venezuela, with possible U.S. logistical support."
Tweeting about CIA visit in Portuguese, Brazilian lawmaker David Miranda drew attention to the U.S.'s record of spying on Brazilian leaders—which was exposed by Glenn Greenwald, Miranda's husband and one of the first journalists to report on the trove of secrets leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Em 2013 eu eu meu marido @ggreenwald mostramos o sistema de vigilância do EUA e seus aliados, que inclusive espionava os líderes de estado brasileiro e nossas estatais. Bolsonaro agora vai na CIA. Síndrome de vira-lata escancarada. Vá ter luta pela soberania Nacional!
— David Miranda (@davidmirandario) March 18, 2019
Greenwald, for his part, said that while reporting on Snowden, he was repeatedly told the CIA's largest presence in South America was in Brazil. He added, "It's worse now."
During the Snowden reporting, I was repeatedly told/warned that CIA's largest permanent presence is in Brazil (due to Cold War roots when CIA helped overthrow Brazil's democratically elected government & then propped up the resulting military regime). It's worse now: https://t.co/8TTnthrEeL
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) March 18, 2019
The Brazilian president's trip to the agency, concluded independent journalist Ben Norton, "is the perfect symbol for Latin America's far right, which has for decades drowned the left in blood thanks to the help of its CIA benefactor."
The headline of this article has been updated.