In front of the White House in Washington, DC, on Sunday, American and Brazilian activists protest against the visit of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Photo: AFP

Brazil’s populist leader Jair Bolsonaro arrived in Washington on Sunday to meet with US President Donald Trump.

The far-right leader arrived early Sunday with six ministers, including Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo, Economy Minister Paulo Guedes and Justice Minister Sergio Moro, Brazilian media reported.

It was the Brazilian president’s first trip abroad for a bilateral meeting since taking office on January 1.

Bolsonaro, who will also meet in Washington with the head of the Organization of American States (OAS), is scheduled to return to Brazil on Tuesday.

Outside the White House Sunday afternoon, dozens of demonstrators gathered to protest the visit – holding signs including one that accused Bolsonaro of being a “murderer” over apparent links to suspects in the murder of rights activist Marielle Franco.

If the leaders of the Americas’ two most populous democracies form a strong bond, they could work in concert on a range of regional issues.

The highest priority is the crisis in Venezuela, where the US and Brazil – and dozens of other countries – have recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president with the goal of driving President Nicolas Maduro from power.

Bolsonaro has expressed great admiration for Trump and shares his contempt for multilateral organizations and leftist politics. Like Trump, he favors serving business interests over addressing environmental concerns.

The former paratrooper is vehemently opposed to leftist currents, both at home and abroad, and he shares the US president’s hostility to the “dictator” Maduro, who took over after the death of socialist leader Hugo Chavez in 2013.

Trump has repeatedly insisted that “all options are on the table” with regards to Venezuela, a phrase believed to include military action.

But Bolsonaro, 63, has ruled out military action in favor of a policy of increasing the economic and diplomatic pressure on Maduro.

As well as a “private meeting” with Trump in the Oval Office on Tuesday, Bolsonaro will hold talks with OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro and take part in various forums to promote economic opportunities in Brazil.

The United States is Brazil’s second biggest trade partner after China.

After his arrival, Bolsonaro was scheduled to dine at the residence of Brazilian Ambassador Sergio Amaral with “opinion makers” including, according to press reports, former Trump adviser and far-right activist Steve Bannon and US-based Brazilian writer Olavo de Carvalho, considered Bolsonaro’s ideological guru.

– with reporting by Agence France-Presse

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