THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
he American presidential elections are
always a very important topic for the Bra-
zilian news media. After all, the United
States and Brazil have long enjoyed close
cultural, economic and social ties. In
addition, as the largest democracies in
the hemisphere they have shared cultural
and political values, as well as mutual
geopolitical interests in both South
America and the world.
Of course, as is true in many other large countries, only a
small fraction of Brazil’s society is interested in foreign affairs.
And even that demographic’s attention tends to focus on per-
sonalities, rather than the issues and platforms—especially with
candidates as colorful as Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. The
battle between the first female presidential candidate of a major
U.S. political party and her picturesque adversary has motivated
the Brazilian media to step up their coverage of the American
election as rarely before.
Admittedly, Barack Obama had also been in the spotlight in
2008, both for his strong leadership qualities and the prospect
The U.S. Election
The contest between two colorful personalities has drawn unprecedented attention
and some concern here, but there is little fear of changes in the bilateral agenda.
BY CARLOS L I NS DA S I LVA
Carlos Lins da Silva is a Global Fellow at the Woodrow
Wilson International Center for Scholars’ Brazil Institute
in Washington, D.C., and a senior consultant for the São
Paulo Research Foundation of Brazil. He has been deputy
editor-in-chief of the Brazilian daily newspapers
Folha de S. Paulo
, and also served as managing editor, U.S. cor-
respondent and ombudsman for the latter.
that he would become the first African American to reach the
U.S. presidency. The empathy between Obama and the Brazilian
public was immediate, and so strong that interest went beyond
those who regularly follow international news. In effect, Obama
became a pop star in Brazil, a reputation he reinforced with sub-
sequent presidential visits here.
Until recently, Brazilian politicians generally assumed that
Republican administrations are better for our national interests
than Democratic ones. Contradictorily, however, in almost every
U.S. election the Democratic candidate is more popular here.
The reason Republicans have been considered preferable
is that they were seen as more committed to free trade than
Democrats. This year, however, Donald Trump has consistently
denounced trade agreements and promised to “put America
first.” As a result, most Brazilians have found no rational reason to
prefer him over Hillary Clinton.
Familiar with the Clintons…
Although no public opinion polls have assessed the support
that the two candidates have among Brazilians, it is a safe bet
that a majority would like to see Clinton elected. Her husband
was hugely popular in Brazil during his years as president and
remains so today. He frequently returns to Brazil for speaking
engagements or for events related to his humanitarian work. And
he has developed a good relationship with two former Brazilian
presidents (Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Luiz Inácio Lula da
Silva), despite the fact that they are political enemies.
When she was first lady, Hillary Clinton made two highly
successful visits to Brazil, and she returned many other times
ON THE U.S. ELECTION