Brazil's President defends plans to develop Amazon

BRASILIA • Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro attacked the "environmental psychosis" of European leaders concerned over his plans to develop the Amazon rainforest, and insisted that the numbers showing sharply increased rates of deforestation were "lies".

"The Amazon is Brazil's - not yours," he said on Friday at a meeting with foreign journalists at the presidential palace in Brasilia.

Questioned over numbers from Brazil's National Institute of Space Research showing an 88 per cent rise in deforestation between June last year and last month, he said the data was false.

Mr Bolsonaro defended plans to develop the region and invited other countries to work with Brazil to exploit its biodiversity.

He also reiterated his invitation to French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to fly over the Amazon to see how much remained untouched.

European leaders have expressed concern over Brazil's environmental policies, with Irish and French lawmakers threatening to scuttle the European Union's trade deal with Mercosur unless significant changes are made.

On Friday, local news magazine Veja published an interview with a member of a so-called eco-extremism group that announced plans to kill the President over his environmental policies. Playing it down, Mr Bolsonaro said: "There's always going to be the risk of an attack on me or any other global leader."

 
 
 

With the Brazilian economy on the brink of recession and unemployment in double-digits, Mr Bolsonaro said pension reform was just a first step towards improving its prospects, but that the government does not have the power to create jobs.

He also spoke in favour of plans to simplify the tax system to make Brazil an easier place to do business.

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 21, 2019, with the headline 'Brazil's President defends plans to develop Amazon'. Print Edition | Subscribe