Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro issued an outraged statement Wednesday morning in response to Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden threatening to wage economic war on his country during the presidential debate the night before, exclaiming, “what a shame!”
Bolsonaro wrote in his statement, published in English on Twitter, that he found Biden’s broadside against the nation of Brazil – a traditional U.S. ally with few international conflicts – “unnecessary” and “difficult to understand.” The president accused Biden of trying to “bribe” him with foreign aid and belying “greed” in exploiting Amazonian natural resources.
Biden made his threat during a segment on environmental preservation; the debate did not feature any formal discussion on foreign policy.
“Brazil, the rainforests of Brazil are being torn down, are being ripped down. More carbon is absorbed in that rainforest than every bit of carbon that’s emitted in the United States,” Biden said during the debate on Tuesday. “Instead of doing something about that, I would be gathering up and making sure we had the countries of the world coming up with $20 billion, and say, ‘Here’s $20 billion. Stop, stop tearing down the forest. And If you don’t, then you’re going to have significant economic consequences.’”
Moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News had not mentioned Brazil or asked any questions regarding U.S.-Brazil relations. Biden did not explain where the $20 billion number came from or what sort of “significant economic consequences” Brazil would suffer if it did not “stop tearing down the forest.”
“The Democratic candidate to the US presidency, Joe 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 on Wednesday. “What some have not yet understood is that Brazil has changed. Its President, unlike the left-wing presidents of the past, does not accept bribes, criminal land demarcations, or coward threats towards our territorial and economic integrity. OUR SOVEREIGNTY IS NON-NEGOTIABLE.”
Bolsonaro appeared to be referring to his socialist predecessor Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, convicted of using millions in taxpayers’ dollars to buy a luxury beachfront property. President Barack Obama, under whom Biden served, once called him the “most popular politician on earth,” a claim in part corroborated by the fact that Lula topped presidential polls in 2018 despite being a convicted felon (authorities prevented Lula from getting on the ballot from prison; Bolsonaro won the election).
Bolsonaro denied that his administration was damaging the Amazon Rainforest and asserted Brasilia had put “forward unprecedented action to protect the Amazon.” He added that, despite his objection to Biden’s remarks, his administration was open to cooperation with the United States on sustainable development and that, in fact, Bolsonaro and Trump are currently engaging in talks to expand said cooperation.
“The greed of some countries towards the Amazon is a well-known fact. 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 affirmed.
“As the head of state who has brought Brazil-US relations closer than ever before, after decades of governments that were unfriendly towards the US, it is really difficult to understand such a disastrous and unnecessary declaration,” the president concluded. “What a shame, Mr. John [sic] Biden, what a shame!”
Bolsonaro has faced global criticism for his handling of annual fires during Brazil’s spring season in the Amazon Rainforest after French President Emmanuel Macron published a photo on his Twitter account of a fire in the region later proven to be at least 16 years old; Macron claimed it was an accurate representation of the fires in 2019. The photo spread around the world through celebrity social media accounts despite its age, however, resulting in global pressure on Bolsonaro to deal with a nearly two-decade-old fire.
Bolsonaro has used international platforms both to condemn Macron, who he has accused of being “colonialist” towards Brazil, and to denounce what he has called a “brutal disinformation campaign” against the Brazilian nation regarding its environmental policy.
“The Brazilian Amazon is known to be immensely rich,” Bolsonaro told the U.N. General Assembly last week, speaking first as is traditional for Brazil. “That explains the support given by international institutions to this 3 disinformation campaign anchored on shady interests coupled with exploitative and unpatriotic Brazilian associations with the purpose of undermining the Government and Brazil itself.”
“I stand by my zero tolerance policy towards environmental crime. Together with Congress, we have sought land regularization with a view to identify the perpetrators of these criminal acts,” he assured his global audience.