RIO DE JANEIRO (Dispatches) -- 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 noncareer 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 Maur?cio 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 S?o 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 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, 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!”