Brazil’s far-right leader on Friday said his country could expand agribusiness without harming the Amazon, while praising his meeting with US President Joe Biden, who raised the issue of climate change.
“We don’t need the Amazon to expand agribusiness,” Bolsonaro told the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, where he met Biden the day before.
Bolsonaro has infuriated environmentalists by championing large farms involved in the deforestation of the Amazon, a crucial “sink” for carbon emissions responsible for rising global temperatures.
Bolsonaro was one of former US President Donald Trump’s key international allies, even supporting his baseless claims of fraud in his 2020 election loss, but praising Biden.
The encounter was “just fantastic,” said Bolsonaro.
A day after the meeting, Bolsonaro and Biden patted each other on the arms and appeared to exchange pleasantries as they posed for a group photo at the summit.
Biden agreed to meet Bolsonaro for the first time as the United States attempted to reach the summit, which had already been marred by a boycott by the left-wing president of Mexico — the second most populous country in Latin America after Brazil.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also praised Biden’s meeting with Bolsonaro.
The talks are “best described as constructive, an opportunity to address many issues in the bilateral relationship at the moment,” Blinken told reporters.
He said the United States was concerned about the Amazon as the “lungs of the hemisphere” and that Biden told Bolsonaro the United States felt the need to help.
“We feel responsible for doing that because we have been able to benefit ourselves over many, many, many generations — for example, by cutting down forests to have agricultural production or industry before anyone understood the impact of climate change,” Blinken said.
The United States is committed to providing funding and other support to ensure countries have “the resources to stop deforestation or even reforestation,” he said.
Bolsonaro separately defended the response to the disappearance in the Amazon of a British journalist and a Brazilian indigenous expert after allegations that his government was not prioritizing efforts.
“From the very first moment, our armed forces and police have tirelessly searched for these people,” Bolsonaro said.
Bolsonaro is trailing in the polls ahead of October’s election for former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a left-wing icon jailed on controversial corruption charges.