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Brazilian economy minister renews dispute with France over Amazon

#Brazilian #economy #minister #renews #dispute #France #Amazon

In decidedly undiplomatic language, Brazil’s economy minister has once again clashed with France over deforestation in the Amazon, telling the European nation that it is becoming “irrelevant” and risks being told where to take its criticism.

Following in the footsteps of his boss, far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who in 2019 poked fun at French First Lady Brigitte Macron’s appearance amid a dispute with her husband Emmanuel over the Amazon wildfires, Economy Minister Paulo Guedes took off his gloves for comments at a business conference on Tuesday.

“We once had a minister from France visit us. ‘You’re burning the forest,’ he said. I told him, ‘You’re burning Notre Dame,'” the famous cathedral that caught fire in April 2019, Guedes said in a speech to the Brazilian Association of Bars and Restaurants in Brasilia.

“I mean, what an idiotic accusation. Notre Dame is on a block and you couldn’t stop it from catching fire. We have an area larger than Europe and they criticize us,” he said in video footage of the event that went viral online.

“You better start treating us right or we’ll tell you to fuck yourself.”

Guedes, an ultra-liberal economist educated at the University of Chicago, said Brazil’s trade with France has dwarfed that with China — $7 billion versus $120 billion.

“They become irrelevant to us,” he said, stressing it was time for France to sign a proposed free trade agreement between the European Union and the South American bloc Mercosur.

The deal has stalled over European concerns that agricultural production in Brazil, the world’s largest exporter of beef and soy, is destroying the world’s largest rainforest.

Since agribusiness ally Bolsonaro took office in January 2019, average annual deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has increased by 75 percent over the previous decade.

Bolsonaro, who is up for re-election in October, exchanged heated words on social media with Macron amid a spate of wildfires in the Amazon in 2019.

It escalated when Bolsonaro shared a supporter’s Facebook post with side-by-side pictures of the two presidents’ wives with the caption: “Now you understand why Macron is pursuing Bolsonaro?”

Guedes also jumped into that fight, calling Brigitte Macron “really ugly.”

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