Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro called Elon Musk’s proposed takeover of Twitter a “breath of hope” as the two met in Brazil on Friday, adding that he hoped the US billionaire would help end “lies” about his widely criticized tropical forest management of the Amazon.
Bolsonaro and Musk, chief executive of electric car maker Tesla and rocket company SpaceX, met to discuss rural internet connectivity and Amazon surveillance. The meeting comes at a delicate moment for both men.
Bolsonaro faces a tough battle to be re-elected in October and is becoming increasingly isolated on the world stage, while Musk was accused of sexually harassing a news report on Thursday, a claim he denies.
Bolsonaro, a far-right nationalist, has criticized major social media platforms for their efforts to combat misinformation, including removing his baseless comments linking COVID-19 vaccines to the development of AIDS. Musk, whom Bolsonaro called a “legend of freedom,” vowed to defend freedom of speech on Twitter.
Bolsonaro has been condemned worldwide for advocating more production and agriculture in the Amazon and for ceding Brazil’s environment. The latest satellite data show that the deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon has risen to a 15-year peak at Bolsonaro.
Speaking with Musk at a luxury hotel in the countryside near Sao Paulo, Bolsonaro welcomed the billionaire’s offer on Twitter, saying “it was like a glimmer of hope.”
“We need and rely on Elon Musk to make the Amazon known to everyone in Brazil and the world, to show … how we have protected it and how much damage has been done by those who spread lies about the region,” he said. at a press conference.
Later, at a press conference without Musk, Bolsonaro talked about his meeting with the American billionaire. “This is the beginning of a relationship that I am sure will end soon,” he said.
Bolsonaro added that Musk’s purchase on Twitter would be “the freedom of the press that we always want and desire, complete freedom, without restrictions,” he said.
Bolsonaro also said he was making Brazil’s Alcantara space base near the equator accessible to Musk’s rockets.
Musk tweeted on Friday afternoon that he aimed to discuss further monitoring of tropical forests and efforts to provide broadband in rural areas, a scheme he had previously discussed with members of Bolsonaro’s government.
Musk was not asked about allegations of harassment when asked after arriving in Sao Paulo, where he was also greeted by business leaders such as Telecom Italia CEO Pietro Labriola and Banco BTG Pactual chairman Andre Esteves.
Musk’s meeting with Bolsonaro, a longtime conservative favorite who defended Brazil’s 1964-1985 military dictatorship, is indicative of the right-wing movement in his personal politics. On Wednesday, he said he had voted for Democrats before, but will now vote for Republicans.
For Bolsonaro, who is worried by international observers, as many fear he may refuse to hand over power if he loses the October election, Musk’s visit was a public relations coup.
Bolsonaro lost an ally when former US President Donald Trump lost his re-election in 2020 and has not spoken to US President Joe Biden since the Democrat took office.
© Thomson Reuters 2022