RIYADH: President Jair M. Bolsonaro is sticking to his guns, and his controversial comments surrounding the widely reported forest fires in his country, claiming they were blown out of proportion.
“At times, certain countries use an environmental agenda or human rights agenda, which is precisely what happened against Brazil,” he said during a discussion panel at the Future Investments Initiative (FII) in Riyadh.
The fires in Brazil’s rainforest were said to be at their peak in August, when the BBC reported 30,901 separate fires.
The same report from October said there were still many fires across parts of the Amazon, although fewer than before.
In September, National Geographic reported that the “unusually severe fires” were presenting a real risk to river life.
And in August, the Hindustan Times presented video footage from NASA showing satellite images of thick plumes of smoke rising from the forest below.
But despite the apparent evidence of the fires and the damage they were causing, Bolsonaro still says the reports were an agenda against his country and fake news.
“It’s a tropical rainforest. It can’t catch on fire,” he said during the panel session with Lubna Al-Olayan, chairman of the Olayan Financing Company.
“Official data was monitored by satellite and managed. The armed forces immediately cleaned up the forests in order for the number of tourists to not be reduced,” he added. “We’re doing our homework and we’re opening our arms to all of you,” he told the audience.
Bolsonaro urged investors to “give Brazil a chance,” telling them: “We have a huge deal to offer all of you.”
He added: “As part of our ongoing reform efforts, we’ll be spending less than the revenue we’re collecting in taxes. That’s our main and most important guarantee.”
He said he wants his legacy to be a “much better Brazil,” and he wants to “reduce bureaucracy and establish a rational environment for investors.”
He added: “A speech from a head of state won’t convince investors, but facts and figures will. We’ve never had such a low interest rate — around 5.5 percent — and our inflation rate is lower than our target of around 3 percent.”
Bolsonaro met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Tuesday. He said the crown prince had pledged to invest $10 billion in Brazil. “These funds will be used in Agra bay, off Rio de Janeiro state, for touristic uses,” Bolsonaro said.