‘Media is lying’ about Amazon devastation, says Brazil’s president

Updated September 25, 2019

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Jair Bolsonaro, President of Brazil speaks at the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly on September 24. — AFP
Jair Bolsonaro, President of Brazil speaks at the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly on September 24. — AFP

UNITED NATIONS: Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro said on Tuesday it was a lie that the Amazon was being devastated by fire and accused countries critical of him of having a “colonialist spirit.”

Speaking first at this year’s UN General Assembly, the far-right leader also heaped praise on his American counterpart Donald Trump for respecting his country’s sovereignty.

The speech came a week after a Human Rights Watch report that accused Bolsonaro of giving a “green light” to illegal loggers and failing to protect those defending the world’s largest rainforest.

“The Amazon is not being devastated or consumed by fire. The media is lying,” said Bolsonaro, whose 32-minute speech went more than double his allotted time.

“It is a fallacy to say that the Amazon is the heritage of humankind, and a misconception confirmed by scientists to say that our Amazon forests are the lungs of the world,” he said.

Bolsonaro also hit out at his detractors, saying that while every country had problems, sensational reporting in the international media “aroused our patriotic sentiments.” “Using and resorting to these fallacies, certain countries, instead of helping ... behaved in a disrespectful manner and with a colonialist spirit,” he said.

“They even called into question that which we hold as a most sacred value, our sovereignty.” Making a clear reference to France, he said: “One of these countries during the recent G7 meeting dared suggest applying sanctions to Brazil without consulting or even listening to Brazil.”

France and Ireland have said they might block a trade deal between the EU and South American countries that include Brazil because of Bolsonaro’s environmental policies.

But Bolsonaro said he was grateful to Trump, a leader to whom he is often compared because of their shared policy views and outspoken nature.

“I thank President Donald Trump who summed up the spirit that should prevail among United Nation member countries: respect for the freedom and sovereignty of each of the member countries,” he said.

Published in Dawn, September 25th, 2019