Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro called Elon Musk’s proposed Twitter takeover a “breath of hope” when the two met in Brazil on Friday, adding that he hoped the American billionaire would help end the “lies” about his ubiquity. criticized management of the Amazon rainforest.
Bolsonaro and Musk, the CEO of electric car maker Tesla and rocket company SpaceX, met to discuss nationwide internet connectivity and monitoring of the Amazon. The meeting comes at a sensitive time for both men.
Bolsonaro faces an uphill battle to be re-elected in October and has become increasingly isolated from 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 criticized major social media platforms for their efforts to fight disinformation, including removing his baseless comments linking COVID-19 vaccines to the development of AIDS. Musk, who called Bolsonaro a “legend of freedom,” has vowed to defend free speech on Twitter.
Bolsonaro has been condemned worldwide for advocating for more mining and farming in the Amazon and for environmental degradation in Brazil. Recent satellite data shows that deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon under Bolsonaro has reached a 15-year peak.
Speaking with Musk at a luxury rural hotel near Sao Paulo, Bolsonaro praised the billionaire’s bid on Twitter, saying “it was like a ray of hope.”
“We must, and count on Elon Musk, that the Amazon will be known to everyone in Brazil and the world, to show … how we have protected it and how much damage is done by those who spread lies about that region, ‘ he told a press conference.
Later, in a press conference without Musk, Bolsonaro gushed about meeting the American 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 we always want and desire, total freedom, with no limit,” he said.
Bolsonaro also said he was making Brazil’s Alcântara space base near the equator available for Musk’s missiles.
Musk tweeted Friday afternoon that he wanted to talk about further rainforest monitoring and an effort to bring broadband internet to rural areas — a plan he had previously discussed with members of Bolsonaro’s government.
Musk was not asked about harassment allegations when he answered questions after arriving in Sao Paulo, where he was also greeted by business leaders such as Telecom Italia Chief Executive Pietro Labriola and Banco BTG Pactual Chairman Andre Esteves.
Musk’s encounter with Bolsonaro, a hobbyhorse conservative who has long defended Brazil’s military dictatorship of 1964-1985, is indicative of the right-wing drift of his personal politics. On Wednesday, he said he previously voted for Democrats but will now vote for Republicans.
For Bolsonaro, who has worried international observers because many fear he will 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 2020 reelection bid, and has not spoken to US President Joe Biden since the Democrat took office.
© Thomson Reuters 2022