How amoral is the Trump administration

Bolsonaro son as ambassador to the USA?

Brazilian President Jair Messias Bolsonaro was joking at the beginning of the week: Shortly before, many of the local media, which he disliked, had targeted the controversial nomination of his third oldest son Eduardo, also known as "Number 03". "If he's being criticized like that, he just has to be the right person for the job," countered Bolsonaro.

Last year, Eduardo Bolsonaro was elected to the Brazilian House of Representatives for the second time - with the historic record result of almost two million votes. Eduardo also thinks he's qualified enough: "I'm President of the Foreign Affairs Commission [of Parliament], I've already been to the US for an exchange and fried hamburgers there."

The Brazilian embassy in Washington has so far only been run by long-serving top diplomats. The fact that Bolsonaro now wants to send a trained lawyer and professional politician there is reminiscent of the practices of regimes such as Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan, according to experts. In modern European societies, Bolsonaro's advance was strange. "That a president entrusts his son with an important task - and Brazil has no more important ambassador than the one in Washington - would be inconceivable for European states. Here one would not emphasize the special relationship of loyalty and trust between the two, but speak of opacity and nepotism ", said the political scientist Thomas Jäger from the University of Cologne to the Deutsche Welle (DW).

Eduardo Bolsonaro also considers himself the most suitable person to serve as Washington Ambassador

The political 'Trump brand'

Eduardo Bolsonaro had introduced his personal closeness to US President Donald Trump in a video as part of his expertise. In general, the current case is reminiscent of the Trump administration, in which son-in-law Jared Kushner acts as a Middle East mediator. "Donald Trump is about building the political 'Trump brand'. That's why he has his daughter Ivanka with him at international conferences and has tried to give her a political profile. Because he sees - don't laugh! - in her the first female president of the USA, "said Jäger.

Such a 'family business' is not good for the reputation of US democracy, says political scientist Alexander Schmotz from Berlin's Humboldt University. "These appointments don't necessarily add to the current administration's perception of being competent and efficient. They also speak volumes about the incumbent president's understanding of democracy and what is appropriate and what is not."

Disparagement of Brazilian foreign policy

Expertise or not - lifting family members into influential positions has a special tradition in Brazil. However, the Itamaraty has so far been an exception: the Brazilian Foreign Ministry is traditionally particularly proud of the excellent training of its diplomats. The embassy in Washington has always been a special figurehead. "For me, the possible nomination is absurd," Senator Angelo Coronel complained to DW. "To put a person with no know-how and experience there just because they know Trump and can cook hamburgers - that is a degradation of Itamaraty."

US President Trump - here with Jair Bolsonaro - is said to have already praised his son Eduardo

Opinions are currently divided in Brazil as to whether the nomination would be legal at all. High-ranking government agencies are currently preparing legal reports, which are more likely to be in favor of the Bolsonaros. The Chief Justice Marco Aurélio Mello had already described the planned nomination as nepotism last week. Angelo Coronel also hopes that the president will renounce the nomination. "It may not be illegal. But it is amoral," said the senator.

Increasing skepticism in Europe?

The nomination of Eduardo Bolsonaro would also cause irritation internationally. Because last year the MP was appointed by the right-wing nationalist US publicist Steve Bannon to represent the "Alt-Right Movement" in South America. "This nomination will not calm the skepticism that has often been expressed in Europe about the development of democracy in Brazil," says Thomas Jäger. "It fits in with the perception that democratic procedures are only fulfilled according to the paper, but not the spirit, and so the democratic legitimacy of the government is gradually being undermined."

There is also concern in Europe about the obvious proximity of the Trump and Bolsonaro families. "The closer to the US brand Trump, the further away from Europe - that is essentially the perception. Therefore, from a European point of view, it is unfavorable if the Brasilia-Washington axis is strengthened," said Jäger. It is hoped that Brazil will not blindly follow Trump's policies, as has already happened in climate policy. "It is true, however, that in Europe both American and Brazilian democracy are viewed as endangered."

Alexander Schmotz is also worried about Brazilian democracy. "Brazil is one of the countries that has experienced a creeping erosion of democratic institutions and norms in recent years. In democratization research we speak of Democratic backsliding. The appointment of the ambassador in Washington plays a subordinate role. It fits into the picture, but will not have much impact. "