Brazil's Trump takes to Amazon campaign trail but is backing Biden

Tom Phillips in Rio de Janeiro
·3-min read

“I’d vote Biden,” Trump said as he pondered Tuesday’s era-shaping election.

Not the real Donald Trump, of course, but his South American namesake – a 49-year-old politician from Brazil’s Amazon who is running for office using the name of a US president he reviles.

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Miguel Simões Leal said he had adopted the alias “Trump” for his campaign to become a city councillor because of a physical resemblance to the rightwing populist.

“I’m a bit chubby, 100kg or so. I look a bit like him – although my hair’s real,” explained the yellow-maned politician from the northern city of Macapá.

But Leal – whose gambit is part of a time-honored Brazilian tradition designed to draw in votes – said the similarities ended there.

“He’s an egotistical guy. The things he says, the way he acts, that absolute imperialism,” he said of the true Trump.

“I don’t preach the same religion,” Leal insisted. “I’m the Good Trump … I don’t like nastiness, I like peace.”

Leal isn’t the only one hoping an association with the US leader will boost their chances in Brazil’s 15 November municipal elections.

In São Paulo the candidate Ronaldo Oliveira has registered under the nickname “Ronald Trump”.

Further south in Santa Catarina another contender is using the moniker “Donald Trump Bolsonaro” – a double tribute to the US president and his far-right Brazilian counterpart and fan Jair Bolsonaro.

João Sá Teles Santana told the Folha de São Paulo he was a “conservative patriot” with an ideological affinity to both. But nabbing their names was mostly a PR strategy. “I want free publicity,” the 59-year-old admitted.

In the southern city of Lages, one would-be councillor is running under the name of one of Trump’s Republican predecessors, although Juliano Nixon insisted that was in fact his actual name.

“My mum told me he came to Brazil once and she thought it was a beautiful name,” said the 28-year-old candidate for the Socialism and Liberty party.

Brazil’s Nixon, a professional referee and committed leftist, said it was his “life mission” to reclaim and redeem the name he owed to the disgraced Republican.

“My aim is to do the exact opposite of everything the previous Nixon did. If he did it this way, I’ll do something different,” said Nixon, who supports Black Lives Matter and helped organize the first LGBT pride day in his profoundly conservative home town, where nearly 75% of voters backed Bolsonaro in the 2018 election.

In Macapá, four of Leal’s rivals – Lincoln, Jeferson [sic], Teddy and Washington - have names with a presidential ring, underlining Brazil’s curious fondness for honouring US leaders with its kids. A fifth called Mandela was forced to withdraw.

Leal earned his nickname when he moved to the Amazon before Trump’s 2016 election and acquaintances spotted a likeliness to the US’s corpulent leader: “Everyone started calling me Trump, Trump, Trump – and Trump stuck.”

He dodged political labels but said he was unhappy with Brazil’s rightwing leader and criticised Bolsonaro’s handling of a pandemic that has killed nearly 160,000 Brazilians.

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“I voted Bolsonaro … but, let’s be frank, he’s really buggered things up. He’s tripping himself up with his own legs,” Leal said.

Nixon said he would also vote Biden if he could.

“Trump makes me afraid – for our world, for our future … and he was the guy who ushered in Bolsonaro.

“They share the same philosophy and this sick ideology,” added the Brazilian socialist, who hoped both would soon be out of office. “If Trump falls, Bolsonaro will go down with him, without a shadow of a doubt.”