RIO DE JANEIRO — The Peruvian Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa calls Donald J. Trump a “racist imbecile.” In Mexico, people are gleefully bashing Trump piñatas after his caustic remarks about Latino immigrants in the United States. In Guatemala, a liquor company is putting up posters of Mr. Trump using a term that, when translated charitably, describes him as a jackass. Then there is Brazil, where Mr. Trump’s new 171-room stamp on the Rio de Janeiro skyline has generated so little uproar that his business partner feels perfectly comfortable trumpeting his contentious stance on immigration. “I’m a Latin and I have to say, I didn’t get offended at all with his comments,” said Paulo Figueiredo Filho, 33, a Brazilian real estate mogul and self-described conservative libertarian who is building the lavish new Trump Hotel here.
“I spend a lot of time in the U.S.,” Mr. Figueiredo added, “and I have seen a lot of illegal immigrants that are causing problems, causing trouble in the country, and I actually agree with him.” The relative paucity of tension around Mr. Trump’s lavish new hotel venture here — in contrast to reactions elsewhere in the Americas, where some media giants and other companies have cut ties to Mr. Trump — may reflect how Brazil is changing, and how it is not.
Rio’s skyline, marred by the skeletons of various high-profile hotel projects that have been abandoned, serves as a constant testament to the souring of Brazil’s economy, making just about any big real estate venture with a chance of being completed an inviting prospect as the city gears up to hold the 2016 Summer Olympics.
“It’s a privilege to have a Trump property in our city,” said Alfredo Lopes, the president of the city’s hotel association and the Rio Convention and Visitors Bureau, emphasizing that he had not paid much attention to the controversies surrounding Mr. Trump in the United States. “This project is a gift to Rio that will serve a very exclusive segment of the market.”
But there is a cultural dynamic at work as well. Scholars attribute some of the indifference here about Mr. Trump’s immigration remarks to an entrenched tradition in Portuguese-speaking Brazil of seeing the country as separate from its Spanish-speaking neighbors in Latin America, despite energetic diplomatic efforts in recent decades to forge stronger ties in the region.