Touting U.S. ties, Bolsonaro's office releases Biden letter on climate, pandemic

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RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - U.S. President Joe Biden wrote to Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro last month, outlining opportunities to work together on the pandemic and the environment ahead of the United Nations COP26 climate conference, the Brazilian president’s office said on Thursday.

In the Feb. 26 letter, which was confirmed by a U.S. official, Biden said his government is willing to work closely with Brazil on a new chapter in bilateral relations, adding that there were no limits on what the nations could achieve together, according to the Brazilian president’s office.

It did not immediately respond to a request for comment about why it waited three weeks to release the letter, which came a day after Bolsonaro’s nemesis, leftist ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, used a high-profile CNN interview to call for Biden for help in securing vaccines to end Brazil’s raging coronavirus outbreak.

Last week, Brazil’s Supreme Court annulled Lula’s graft convictions, upending the 2022 presidential election and teeing up a likely showdown between Lula and Bolsonaro.

Bolsonaro has been dismissive of the coronavirus and vaccines but faces growing pressure with numbers of infections and deaths reaching record highs in Brazil.

But Lula’s focus on measures to end the pandemic and support Brazil’s ravaged economy in a speech last week drew a swift response from Bolsonaro - he and his aides made a rare appearance wearing masks at an official event in Brasilia.

On Friday, Bolsonaro tapped a cardiologist to become his fourth health minister during the pandemic, after months of criticism of the active army general currently in the role.

Last year’s U.S. election represented a major international setback for Bolsonaro, who idolized Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump and sought to build closer ties with his administration.

Biden’s focus on the environment and human rights may pose a challenge for Bolsonaro, a far-right former army captain who has presided over worsening destruction of the Amazon rainforest and pushed to roll back protection of indigenous lands.

Reporting by Rodrigo Viga Gaier; Writing and additional reporting by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Mark Heinrich