Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has lashed out at US Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden after he criticised the Latin American nation over the destruction of the Amazon rainforest.
In a heated first presidential debate on Tuesday with President Donald Trump, an ally of Bolsonaro, Biden said foreign countries should give Brazil $20bn to stop Amazon deforestation, and the country should face “significant economic consequences” if it fails.
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The far-right Brazilian leader hit back at Biden, saying Brazil would not accept “coward threats towards our territorial and economic integrity”.
“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,” Bolsonaro wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.
“What a shame, Mr John Biden! What a shame!” he added, mistaking the former vice president’s first name in the English version of his tweet.
— Jair M. Bolsonaro (@jairbolsonaro) September 30, 2020
The Brazilian leader has insisted on economic development of the region, drawing condemnation from environmentalists, climate scientists and foreign leaders who say the forest is an important carbon sink and must remain standing to achieve international climate change goals.
Bolsonaro said Brazil was taking action on deforestation and reasserted that he views foreign interest in the Amazon as financially motivated and an attempt to undermine Brazilian sovereignty.
“The greed of some countries towards the Amazon is a well-known fact,” Bolsonaro said.
“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.”
‘Stop tearing down the forest’
In November’s US elections, Biden is challenging Republican President Trump. Bolsonaro openly admires Trump and has sought to ally Brazil with the Trump administration, with the two leaders seeking to deepen trade ties.
In Tuesday’s heated debate, Biden said Brazil provided an example of how Trump “has no relationship with foreign policy”.
“The rainforests of Brazil are being torn down,” Biden said.
“Will you shut up, man.”
Presidential candidates Joe Biden and Donald Trump clashed in heated exchanges over COVID-19, healthcare, taxes and #BlackLivesMatter protests.
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) September 30, 2020
“I would be gathering up and making sure we had the countries of the world coming up with $20bn, and say: ‘Here’s $20bn. Stop tearing down the forest. And if you don’t then you’re gonna have significant economic consequences.'”
Bolsonaro, who took office in January 2019, has presided over a surge of deforestation in the world’s biggest rainforest.
Official data show that an area roughly the size of Lebanon was deforested in Brazil’s Amazon for 2019, an 11-year high, with preliminary government data for 2020 showing forest clearances up 34.5 percent.
Bolsonaro’s right-wing government maintains Brazil is a model of conservation because of the size of forest land still standing.
Brazil has repeatedly said the world should pay up if it wants more forest to be preserved.
Brazilian Environment Minister Ricardo Salles reacted on Twitter to Biden’s offer of funding, writing: “Just one question: Biden’s $20bn in aid, is that yearly?”