Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has slammed US presidential candidate Joe Biden for his remarks about the Amazon rainforest during Tuesday’s presidential debate, saying it was “difficult to understand such a disastrous and unnecessary declaration.”
Bolsonaro, an ally of President Donald Trump, tweeted on Wednesday saying Biden “stated yesterday that he could pay us as much as US$20 billion to stop the ‘destruction’ of the Amazon Rainforest adding that, if we did not accept this offer, he would then impose serious economic sanctions on our country.”
Bolsonaro wrote that he “unlike the left-wing presidents of the past, does not accept bribes, criminal land demarcations or coward threats toward our territorial and economic integrity,” adding that Brazil’s sovereignty was non-negotiable.
During the climate section of the debate, Biden said the “rainforests of Brazil are being torn down, are being ripped down.” He then went on to say that he would be “gathering up and making sure we had the countries of the world coming up with $20 billion to say ‘here’s $20 billion, stop tearing down the forest and if you don’t, you are going to have significant economic consequences.’”
Bolsonaro said his government is putting forward “unprecedented” action to protect the Amazon and the environment, and that cooperation with the United States is welcome, such as initiatives he said he has been negotiating with Trump.
“The greed of some countries towards the Amazon is a well-known fact,” his post went on to say, adding, “However, the explicit demonstration of this greed by someone who is running for the presidency of his country is a clear sign of contempt for cordial and fruitful coexistence between two sovereign nations.”
Bolsonaro, who became known as the “Trump of the Tropics” during his presidential run, has shown warm regard for Trump. During a visit to the White House in March, he said Brazil and the US share a “respect to traditional and family lifestyles, respect to God, our creator, against the gender ideology of the politically correct attitudes and fake news.”
He also predicted that Trump would win re-election in November.
Bolsonaro’s right-wing government has been widely criticized for its approach to environmental regulations and its handling of destructive fires in the rainforest. Last year, the G7 group which includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States used its summit in France to call on Bolsonaro to step up efforts to protect the Amazon.
But Bolsonaro has repeatedly rejected criticism of his government’s stance, accusing foreign actors of a “brutal disinformation campaign” even as data from his own agency shows a growing problem, especially in the Amazon and the Pantanal.
In 2019, his first year in office, Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) counted 126,089 fires in the Amazon – a rise of nearly 40% over the year before he took office.
Last week, Bolsonaro told the UN General Assembly that no other country protected as much wild territory as Brazil. The previous week, his administration indeed made gestures toward protecting those lands. The Ministry of Environment announced the creation of the Secretariat of the Amazon, to deal with subjects directly linked to the rainforest, and the Secretariat of Protected Areas, to manage environmental conservation lands.
This year, Bolsonaro also signed two executive orders to curb deforestation: one prohibiting clearing the forest by fire – a common tactic of illegal ranchers, loggers and farmers – and another order authorizing an army group to patrol the Amazon for prevent banned clearing and burning operations. The decree authorized the military to operate inside indigenous lands and within environmental conservation areas. But so far, the bans have proven toothless – INPE reported more fires in August and September than in the same period a year ago.
The rainforest plays a key role in climate change mitigation, absorbing billions of tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year. Its vast tree canopy serves as an “air conditioner” for the planet, scientists say, influencing global temperature and rainfall patterns.
Claudia Dominguez contributed reporting.