(Bloomberg) — Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro asked US President Joe Biden for help in his re-election bid during a private meeting on the sidelines of a regional summit this week, portraying his leftist opponent as a danger to US interests, according to people familiar with the matter.
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During the meeting on Thursday, Biden underlined the importance of preserving the integrity of Brazil’s democratic electoral process, and when Bolsonaro asked for help, Biden moved to change the subject, one of the people said. Bolsonaro’s comments to Biden about his rival, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, echoed his public warnings about the two-term former president, according to the people, who requested anonymity to discuss a private conversation.
The press office of Brazil’s presidency didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, while the White House press office declined to immediately comment.
The almost hour-long meeting, their first since Biden’s election in 2020, took place mostly in private during the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles. Bolsonaro told reporters afterward that he and Biden “talked superficially” about the election. In public comments at the start of their meeting, Biden said that Brazil has a vibrant, inclusive democracy and strong electoral institutions.
Polls show Bolsonaro trailing Lula ahead of Brazil’s election in October. Lula would win 47% of the votes in the first round, while Bolsonaro would get 29%, a survey by pollster Quaest showed on Wednesday.
Read more: Brazil’s Economic Troubles Leave Lula Closer to Winning Election
The US has a standing policy not to pick a side in other nations’ elections, saying that the vote must reflect the desires of the country’s people.
Still, US presidents have often drifted from that dictum, as when Barack Obama voiced his opposition to Brexit before the vote. And history is replete with successive US administrations backing foreign leaders who were up for election — such as Boris Yeltsin in Russia in the 1990s.
Bolsonaro, a close ally of former US President Donald Trump, this week expressed doubt about the legitimacy of Biden’s election victory. In remarks to a local television station in Brazil on June 7, Bolsonaro claimed there was widespread fraud in the US election that Biden won, repeating the conspiracy theories that the former US president has raised consistently since November 2020.
The comments echoed Bolsonaro’s renewed attempts to discredit the electronic voting system in Brazil, where he’s seeking a second term.
Bolsonaro was one of the last world leaders to congratulate Biden for his victory, and relations between the two biggest economies in the Americas had cooled. Yet at their meeting on Thursday, the pair appeared to get along well, with the Brazilian leader describing their meeting as “sensational” and “way better” than he had expected. In comments to CNN Brasil, he said he was “amazed” by his US counterpart.
After the official photo of regional leaders as the summit concluded Friday, Biden lingered to chat with Bolsonaro, touching the Brazilian leader on the back as Bolsonaro put his hand on Biden’s shoulder.
Lula, who was president from 2003 to 2010, had a good relationship with US President Barack Obama, whom Biden served as vice president, during almost two years when the pair overlapped as heads of government.
Speaking of Lula during a Group of 20 summit in London in 2009, Obama said, “This is my man” and “I love this guy.”
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