While the raging fires were destroying the Amazon rainforest, the world leaders had been engaged in a not-so-friendly and not-particularly-diplomatic argument over Twitter. On August 27th, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro angrily rejected the $22m aid pledged by the G7 countries during the recent meeting in Biarritz, France. While the global media were shocked by Bolsonaro’s rough choice amid the stir around the Amazon, the decision was far away from being unexpected.
In his heated comeback to what could have been a sign of help from the G7, Jair Bolsonaro wrote on Twitter: “We cannot accept that [Macron] unleashes improper and unreasonable attacks on the Amazon, nor disguises his intentions behind the idea of an ‘alliance’ of countries for the G7 to ‘save’ the Amazon, as if we were a colony or no man’s land”. While the words of Brazilian President may unleash a patriotic feeling in some portion of Brazilians, what it really does, is emphasizing the populist rhetoric that Bolsonaro employs frequently, and it has to be noted, successfully.
In Brazil, a country very much divided economically and socially, Bolsonaro’s words seem to caress the hearts of the ordinary Brazilians who feel that their voices are lost amid the constant pressure from the extractive elitist groups. Bolsonaro’s appeal towards troubled colonial history is nothing more than a stoking of the very strong, deep-rooted sentiments of his constituents.
It would have been naïve to consider that the decision of the leaders of the G7 to save the Amazon does not entail any political responsibility. Every political aid comes with a requirement, whether hidden or not. Bolsonaro, whose political style does not particularly appeal to the Western democracies, understands the underlying premise of accepting the aid and successfully avoids it, thus avoids indirect political influence from the G7 member-states.
Meanwhile, not everything is doomed in the Amazon: Brazil’s foreign minister Ernesto Araujo had accepted a $12m in aid from British foreign secretary Dominic Raab, employed by the populist Boris Johnson, while Jair Bolsonaro had personally received a letter of endorsement from yet another populist head of state – Donald Trump – who wrote on his Twitter: “I have gotten to know President Jair Bolsonaro well in our dealings with Brazil. He is working very hard on the Amazon fires and in all respects doing a great job for the people of Brazil – Not easy. He and his country have the full and complete support of the USA!”.
As it appears to be, this online-conflict is not only a conflict between different heads of states but a conflict between ideologies. In a world, as divided as ours, the winner has yet to be determined.