Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro called Elon Musk’s proposed takeover of Twitter a “glimmer of hope” when the two met in Brazil on Friday, adding he hopes the US billionaire will help break the “lies” about his to end the widely criticized management of the Amazon rainforest.
Bolsonaro and Musk, the CEO of electric carmaker Tesla and rocket company SpaceX, met to discuss rural internet connections and surveillance of the Amazon. The meeting comes at a sensitive time for both men.
Bolsonaro faces an uphill battle for re-election in October and is increasingly isolated on the global stage, while Musk was accused of sexual harassment in a news report on Thursday — a claim he denies.
Bolsonaro, a far-right nationalist, has blasted major social media platforms for their efforts to combat disinformation, including removing his baseless comments linking COVID-19 vaccines to the development of AIDS. Musk, whom Bolsonaro dubbed a “legend of freedom,” has vowed to defend freedom of expression on Twitter.
Bolsonaro has been condemned worldwide for campaigning for more mining and agriculture in the Amazon and for Brazil’s ecological backwardness. Recent satellite data shows that deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has risen to a 15-year high under Bolsonaro.
Speaking to Musk at an upscale hotel in the countryside near Sao Paulo, Bolsonaro hailed the billionaire’s offer for Twitter, saying, “It was like a glimmer of hope.”
“We need and count 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 is being done by those spreading lies about this region.” ‘ he said at a press conference.
Later, in a Musk-free press conference, Bolsonaro gushed about meeting the US billionaire. “It’s the beginning of a relationship that I’m sure will soon end in marriage,” he said.
Bolsonaro added that Musk’s Twitter purchase would “represent the freedom of the press that we always want and desire, total freedom without borders,” he said.
Bolsonaro also said he is making Brazil’s Alcântara space base near the equator available for Musk’s rockets.
Musk tweeted Friday afternoon that he intends to discuss further rainforest surveillance and efforts to bring broadband internet to rural areas — a plan he previously discussed with members of the Bolsonaro government.
Musk was not asked about allegations of harassment when he answered questions after arriving in Sao Paulo, where he was also greeted by business leaders including Pietro Labriola, chief executive of Telecom Italia, and Andre Esteves, chairman of Banco BTG Pactual.
Musk’s meeting with Bolsonaro, a longtime conservative arsonist who defended Brazil’s military dictatorship from 1964 to 1985, is indicative of his personal politics’ drift to the right. On Wednesday, he said he previously voted for the Democrats but will now vote for the Republicans.
For Bolsonaro, who worries international observers as many fear he may refuse to hand over power if he loses the October election, Musk’s visit was a PR coup.
Bolsonaro lost an ally when former US President Donald Trump lost his 2020 reelection bid and has not spoken to US President Joe Biden since the Democrat took office.
© Thomson Reuters 2022