Brazil’s President May Appoint Son, Friend to the Trumps, as Ambassador to U.S.

RIO DE JANEIRO — President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil is weighing appointing his third son, Eduardo Bolsonaro, as ambassador to the United States, arguing that his son’s friendship with President Trump’s sons would make him an effective envoy.

But the move immediately provoked criticism because ambassadorial appointments for non-career diplomats in Brazil are exceptionally rare. The younger Bolsonaro is a federal lawmaker.

Diplomats are selected through a highly competitive process that has made Brazil’s foreign service one of the most respected in the world.

“We’ve never had a president who named a son as ambassador,” said Maurício Santoro, an international relations professor at the State University of Rio de Janeiro. “That is something that sets Brazil apart from other countries in Latin America.”

The president and Eduardo Bolsonaro spoke enthusiastically on Thursday about the possibility, in separate conversations with reporters, but both said it was not yet a done deal.

Their remarks appeared to be a trial balloon to test how much opposition a formal nomination would face.

Brazilian legal experts said appointing Eduardo Bolsonaro as ambassador could run afoul of nepotism rules. The appointment would require approval from the Senate.

The president said part of the appeal of the idea is the preferential access he thinks his son would get in Washington.

“Clearly, the treatment he would receive would be different from that of another ambassador,” the president said. “He’s a friend of Trump’s sons, speaks English, speaks Spanish, and has a lot of worldly experience.”

Eduardo Bolsonaro, 35, was elected last year from São Paulo, and serves in the lower House. He is the head of the foreign affairs committee there.

The son’s effusive support of the Trump administration has endeared him to the American president, who singled him out for praise when the father visited the White House in March. The younger Mr. Bolsonaro accompanied the Brazilian leader on that visit and was invited to attend an Oval Office meeting.

During a visit to Washington earlier this year, Eduardo Bolsonaro said undocumented Brazilians living in the United States are “an embarrassment.” During a visit to the White House he wore a baseball cap with the slogan Make America Great Again — Trump 2020.

In February, during a stop at Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s golf club in Palm Beach, Fla., Eduardo Bolsonaro reminisced about his days working as a federal police officer along Brazil’s border with Bolivia as he hailed the White House’s bid to build a wall along the Mexican border.

“We know how the things work,” he said. “So build that wall! We Brazilians are supporting you!”

Eduardo Bolsonaro told reporters on Thursday that by nominating a son as ambassador to the United States his father would be sending a clear signal of his “strong commitment” to strengthen relations between Brazil and the United States. He added that as ambassador he would strive to rebuild Brazil’s reputation abroad and attract investment.

Unlike several countries in the region, Brazil has built a professional foreign service in which top posts are not used to reward campaign donors and political allies.

The ambassadorship in Washington is seen as the service’s premier overseas post and it has historically been held by officials with distinguished careers in diplomacy and foreign affairs.

Mr. Santoro, from the State University of Rio de Janeiro, said Eduardo Bolsonaro lacked the experience for such a complex job. He also said Eduardo Bolsonaro’s effusive support for Mr. Trump would make him ineffective at dealing with Democrats in Washington, particularly if they win back the White House next year.

Under Brazil’s Constitution, ambassadors must be at least 35 years old. Eduardo Bolsonaro turned 35 this week.

Eduardo Bolsonaro and two of his brothers, Carlos, a Rio de Janeiro City Council member, and Flávio, a federal Senator, have become high-profile and at times controversial political figures since their father’s election last year.

Flávio Bolsonaro is under criminal investigation for a suspected money laundering scheme run out of his office when he was a state lawmaker in Rio de Janeiro. The scandal has marred the president’s image as a anti-corruption crusader.

Carlos Bolsonaro has been a driver of infighting and intrigue within his father’s senior team, picking public fights with the country’s vice president and other top officials.

Eduardo Bolsonaro has generated fewer headaches for the president.

Last year he sought the counsel of the former White House strategist Steve Bannon and after a meeting declared that the two “share the same worldview.”

He also has railed against leftist leaders in the region, saying they sought to impose a form of “cultural Marxism.”