French president Macron slams Brazil counterpart Bolsonaro after insults about wife

French President Emmanuel Macron and his Brazilian counterpart Jair Bolsonaro have repeatedly locked horns in the last weeks. PHOTO: AFP

BIARRITZ (AFP) - French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday (Aug 26) condemned "extraordinarily rude" comments about his wife Brigitte by Brazilian counterpart Jair Bolsonaro in an escalating spat between the two men.

Mr Bolsonaro and Mr Macron have repeatedly locked horns in the last weeks as the French president sought to put climate change and the environment at the heart of agenda of the Group of Seven (G-7) summit he is hosting in Biarritz, as fires ravaged the Amazon basin.

But the endorsement by Mr Bolsanaro of vicious personal comments about Mr Macron's wife posted online appeared to force their relationship to a new low.

"He has made some extraordinarily rude comments about my wife," Mr Macron said at a press conference in Biarritz.

"What can I say? It's sad. It's sad for him firstly, and for Brazilians," he added.

On Sunday, a Bolsonaro supporter posted a message on Facebook mocking the appearance of Brigitte Macron and comparing her unfavourably with Brazil's first lady Michelle Bolsonaro.

"Now you understand why Macron is persecuting Bolsonaro?" he wrote next to an unflattering picture of Brigitte Macron, 65, who is 28 years older than Mr Bolsonaro's wife, Michelle.

Mr Bolsonaro replied on Facebook: "Do not humiliate the guy, ha ha."

"I think Brazilian women will probably be ashamed to read that from their president," Mr Macron said. "I think that Brazilians, who are a great people, will probably be ashamed to see this behaviour."

"And as I feel friendship and respect towards the Brazilian people, I hope that they will very soon have a president who behaves in the right way."

Ahead of the G-7 summit, Mr Macron had bitterly accused Mr Bolsonaro of lying to him at the G-20 meeting in Osaka in June about his commitments on climate change.

He added that as a result, France would no longer back the planned Mercosur Free Trade Agreement between Latin America and the EU.

Mr Bolsonaro had blasted Mr Macron for having a "colonialist mentality" after he tweeted that fires burning in the Amazon basin amounted to an international crisis and should be discussed as a top priority at the G-7 summit.

In another sign of tensions, Mr Bolsanaro had skipped a meeting with visiting French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian earlier this month, saying that he had instead gone to the hairdresser.

"I respect every leader elected by their country as I respect all the peoples of the countries," said Mr Macron.

But Mr Bolsonaro, he said, had gone back on his climate pledges and "then he had a meeting with his barber when he was supposed to meet the foreign minister".

The clash recalls a spat between Mr Macron and Italian deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini, another far-right nationalist figure.

Mr Macron has repeatedly stated that he sees the world as dividing into "progressives" such as himself and nationalists, whom he has compared to leprosy.

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