BUDAPEST, Hungary — Populist leaders from Brazil and Hungary underscored their shared conservative approach to issues including migration, Christianity and family values during a visit to the Hungarian capital on Thursday by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.
Speaking at a press briefing in Budapest following bilateral talks, Hungarian nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban called Bolsonaro’s visit a “historic diplomatic event” and said the two leaders shared a unique approach to “great global challenges”.
“We have the same approach to migration,” Orban said, adding that Hungary and Brazil had agreed to set up an “early warning system” to detect any international agreement facilitating migration and work together to oppose it.
“There are still some of us – what we call a coalition of the sane – who don’t want the world to change because of migration,” Orban said.
Bolsonaro’s official visit to Budapest, the first-ever by a Brazilian president, came just a day after his meeting in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin – a visit that his critics, and even some within his own cabinet , claimed to be inappropriate due to the current situation. tensions over fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Orban, who has close ties to Putin and visited the Kremlin himself earlier this month, said on Thursday that “all diplomatic efforts” were valuable because “the possibility of war casts a shadow over our days”.
An ideological ally of Bolsonaro and a supporter of what he calls “illiberal democracy” and a Christian approach to governance, Orban said the two leaders were committed to providing joint support to persecuted Christian communities in Africa, and discussed what they see as attacks on the traditional family model.
“A man and a woman make a family, and we will do everything possible at all levels so that this concept is not relativized,” Orban said.
Bolsonaro, who is set to run for office in October, recently suffered his lowest approval rating since taking office in January 2019 – in part due to his response to the COVID-19 pandemic which has more than 600,000 dead in Brazil. , the second highest in the world.
That leaves him in a vulnerable position ahead of his likely re-election, where he is set to face former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who early opinion polls show holds a sizable lead.
Brazilian observers interpreted his trips to Russia and Hungary as intended to bolster the electorate, particularly after his main international ally, former US President Donald Trump, lost his own re-election bid.
“Both trips are important for his domestic supporters, as they show Bolsonaro as part of a global network of strong leaders, committed to traditional values, religion and nationalism,” said Maurício Santoro, professor of international relations at Rio State University. of Janeiro.
One of the few foreign leaders to attend Bolsonaro’s presidential inauguration in Brazil in 2019, Orban, who himself faces a close race ahead of Hungary’s April 3 election, is often praised by allies of extreme right of the Brazilian leader.
In a speech to the lower house of Congress in March 2021, Bolsonaro’s son Eduardo, a lawmaker who at the time chaired the Foreign Relations Committee, called the Hungarian prime minister a “benchmark”.
Yet despite their ideological closeness, the two leaders differ on their approach to the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccination.
A Brazilian Senate report last year recommended that Bolsonaro, who says he is unvaccinated, be charged with crimes against humanity and other charges for allegedly bungling Brazil’s response to COVID-19.
Orban’s government, on the other hand, has stressed the importance of vaccination as the only way to bring the pandemic under control.
On Thursday, Brazil and Hungary signed memorandums of understanding on advancing cooperation in defense, as well as in the areas of humanitarian and water and sanitation management.
“We only spent a very short time in Hungary, but it will have a huge impact on our nations,” Bolsonaro said.
David Biller in Rio de Janeiro contributed.