U.S. President Trump and Brazil's President Bolsonaro also discussed cooperation over Venezuela, where both want to oust socialist President Maduro.
U.S. President Donald Trump gave Brazil's new far-right leader Jair Bolsonaro a ringing endorsement in the Oval Office Tuesday, saying he was looking at a NATO membership or some other alliance for Brazil while saying that his administration has yet to impose the "toughest" sanctions on Venezuela.
At the outset of their first meeting, the two populist presidents exchanged football jerseys from their national teams, with Trump's name emblazoned on Brazil's famous yellow shirt and Bolsonaro's on the USA uniform.
Bolsonaro, a former army captain who styled his 2018 campaign after Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, has declared himself an unabashed admirer of the U.S. president, his politics, and the "American way of life". He’s also openly praised former dictators of Brazil, Chile, and Paraguay as well as the ‘Chicago Boys.’
Despite the courtship of both parties, no major breakthroughs were expected from the White House meeting. Trump did give his verbal support, however, to expanding Brazil's presence in major multinational organizations, such as the military alliance, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and the trade organization, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
"We're going to look at that very, very strongly in terms of- whether it's NATO or it's something having to do with alliance," Trump told reporters as he sat beside Bolsonaro.
Brazilian government officials had said last week that they expected the United States to name Brazil as a major non-NATO ally. However, proposing Brazil for NATO membership would take that a step further.
In 2018, Colombia became the only Latin American nation to join NATO, as a "global partner," which means it will not necessarily have to take part in military action.
Trump also said he supported Brazil's efforts to join the OECD. Brazil, the world's eighth-largest economy, applied in 2017 to join the international organization, which has around three dozen members including Latin American countries Mexico, Chile, and Colombia.
During the press conference, Trump once again took aim at Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro saying that "the twilight hour of socialism has arrived in our hemisphere," Trump told reporters and added that "as you know we have yet to impose the toughest sanctions" on Venezuela.
A senior member of Bolsonaro's economic team said last week Brazil did not expect the U.S. government to announce support for its bid to join the OECD during Bolsonaro's visit.
Trump said he and Bolsonaro would also discuss improving trade between the two largest economies in the Western Hemisphere and cooperation over Venezuela, where both leaders want to oust leftist President Nicolas Maduro.
Ahead of Tuesday's Oval Office meeting, Bolsonaro waived a visa requirement for U.S. visitors to Brazil and later in a Fox News interview, Monday night threw his weight behind Trump's immigration agenda, which includes a wall on the Mexican border.
"We do agree with President Trump's decision or proposal on the wall," Bolsonaro said, in remarks translated to English by the broadcaster. "The vast majority of potential immigrants do not have good intentions. They do not intend to do the best or do good to the U.S. people."
Trump’s administration’s immigration policies, with tightening restrictions and shifting protocol, have lead to family separations, human rights violations, and at least three deaths of two children and one man who were in custody at the US-Mexican border since December 2018.