WASHINGTON (AP) – The president of Brazil visited CIA headquarters Monday on his first official trip to the U.S., an unusual move that reflects the country’s shift in leadership to a more pro-American stance.
President Jair Bolsonaro planned to discuss “international themes in the region” at the visit to headquarters in Langley, Virginia, according to his son, Eduardo, a Brazilian lawmaker accompanying him.
Eduardo Bolsonaro described the CIA as “one of the most respected intelligence agencies in the world,” in a tweet that was likely to raise eyebrows back home in Brazil, where the U.S. and its spy services have been regarded with suspicion in recent years.
In 2013, leaks from Edward Snowden revealed that the National Security Agency had wiretapped conversations of then-President Dilma Rousseff, leading to a years of frosty relations between the U.S. and Brazil.
“No Brazilian president had ever paid a visit to the CIA,” said Celso Amorim, who served as foreign minister under former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and is a Bolsonaro critic. “This is an explicitly submissive position. Nothing compares to this.”
The CIA had no comment on the visit.
Bolsonaro visited the agency with his justice minister, Sergio Moro, leading daily O Globo reported. The paper noted that the visit was not published in the president’s agenda and reporters were not allowed to accompany him inside.
The far-right Bolsonaro was elected last year and is an admirer of President Donald Trump. He sought to underscore his pro-America stance with a tweet upon his arrival Sunday.
“For the first time in a while, a pro-America Brazilian president arrives in DC,” he said in the tweet. “It’s the beginning of a partnership focused on liberty and prosperity, something that all of us Brazilians have long wished for.”
He spoke about his admiration for Trump and the United States in general in a speech Monday to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and contrasted his government with the “anti-American” views of his two predecessors.
“Now, you have a president who is a friend of the United States,” Bolsonaro said.
He said that he and Trump faced similar hostility from establishment media during their campaigns and how they share similar goals. “We want to have a great Brazil just like Trump wants to have a great America,” Bolsonaro said.
The speech came after the two countries signed several bilateral agreements, including one that allows the United States to use Brazil’s Alcantara Aerospace Launch Base for its satellites.
He is to meet with Trump on Tuesday, when he is expected to discuss trade and cooperation on the international campaign to press Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to give up power to the opposition.
Brazil, like the U.S., has recognized the leader of the National Assembly, Juan Guaido, as interim president under the argument that Maduro’s re-election last year was illegitimate.
“We have to sort Venezuela out,” Bolsonaro said. “We cannot leave them the way they are. We have to free the nation of Venezuela.”
Associated Press writer Mauricio Savarese in Madrid contributed to this report.