(Bloomberg) -- Brazilian lawmaker Eduardo Bolsonaro, son of the nation’s president and winner of the most votes in parliamentary elections, has lobbied for a top foreign policy post by touting his experience flipping burgers while an exchange student in the U.S.
The father, Jair Bolsonaro, is facing an intensifying backlash, even from his supporters, after mentioning that is considering nominating his son to be ambassador to the U.S. Lawmakers criticized the move, the Brazil diplomats’ association registered opposition and jokes and memes inundated social media. Any challenge over what some perceive as nepotism will have to be addressed by the Supreme Court.
Opposition to the nomination may put Bolsonaro’s legislative agenda in peril.
The president has pledged to shift Brazil’s politics to the right, a promise most evident in foreign policy. Brazil has sought to strengthen its U.S. ties by supporting President Donald Trump on several fronts. Since January, Brazil has become more confrontational with Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro and Bolsonaro has vowed to move the embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, a move Eduardo has said is a matter of “when and not if.” Trump moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem in May 2018.
Eduardo Bolsonaro, 35, is president of the lower house’s foreign relations committee. He has formed ties with former Trump strategist Steve Bannon and joined his global right-wing group called The Movement. He is seen as Brazil’s shadow foreign minister, sitting in on his father’s recent meeting with Trump.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, the younger Bolsonaro defended his qualifications, citing his committee chairmanship.
“I have lived around the world, I have been through student-exchange programs, I have flipped burgers there in the U.S.,” he said mentioning Maine “a state that is near the Canada border” and Colorado. “I have improved my English skills, I have seen how welcoming the Americans are to Brazilians.”
The outcry over a possible nomination was immediate. Lawmaker Marcelo Calero, a former culture minister, proposed a bill to require that only career diplomats head Brazil’s embassies. U.S.-based far-right philosopher Olavo de Carvalho, cited by Eduardo as one of his ideological gurus, said in a YouTube video that the lawmaker shouldn’t abandon his current post.
Other lawmakers denounced the move, just as a flagship pension overhaul aiming to save 900 billion reais ($240 billion) in 10 years cleared the first vote in the lower house. The bill, if passed in a second round, would go to Senate for a two-round vote among lawmakers who need to approve any nomination to head foreign embassies.
“Even if still not official, just by showing the intention, Bolsonaro has created a political fact that can make it more difficult to pass proposals such as pensions,” said Andre Cesar, political analyst at Hold Consultoria. “The timing was terrible, as two situations like that being discussed at Senate almost at the same time can have one contaminate the other, thus jeopardizing both.”
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