Portugal's president invariably finds time to dive into the ocean. He was on Copacabana beach shortly after his touchdown in Rio

Marcelo shrugs off Bolsonaro ‘snub’: no break in stride

Marcelo shrugs off Bolsonaro ‘snub’: no break in stride

President Marcelo, leaving Brazil today after a whistle-stop visit to commemorate the first aerial South Atlantic crossing by Portuguese navigators Gago Coutinho and Sacudura Cabral, has shrugged off the ‘snub’ of having his programmed lunch with President Jair Bolsonaro in Brasilia unceremoniously cancelled.

Everything to do with Portugal and Brazil is “a family matter”, he said diplomatically, underlining the extraordinary close links between the two countries.

But political pundit Luís Marques Mendes pointed out the obvious: that Mr Bolsonaro – previously hailed as the Donald Trump of South America – was ‘just being incoherent’, and only cancelled the fixture because of upcoming elections.

At issue appeared to be Marcelo’s earlier meetings with former presidents Lula da Silva and Michel Temer. Bolsonaro was “irritated”, explained reports, because Lula da Silva is challenging the presidency… and may well win (according to the Financial Times: “For many Brazilians, Bolsonaro is responsible for the hardship now afflicting Latin America’s largest country. In the three years since the far-right populist became leader in 2019, the economy has grown only about 2 per cent. The Covid-19 pandemic killed 670,000 Brazilians, the second-highest death toll worldwide, and inflation has soared this year to about 12 per cent, hurting the poorest most. A study released this month found more than 33 million Brazilians now suffer from hunger — 14 million more than just two years ago.”)

As Marques Mendes pointed out, the last time President Marcelo visited Brazil, he also met with Lula da Silva and Michel Temer, yet Mr Bolsonaro was perfectly comfortable to receive him then. The difference? No elections on the horizon. No polls showing how badly Bolsonaro is likely to do.

Marcelo has forged ahead with his visit and is on the final leg today before returning home.

He has said he will be returning before the presidential elections (on October 2) to commemorate Brazil’s 200 years of independence (September 7). At that point “naturally there will be a meeting not just with Congress but certainly with the President of Republic”, he told reporters… and the President of the Republic will (almost certainly) still be Jair Bolsonaro.