[ President watches rightwing comic as pre-recorded speech to nation on fighting fires airs]
While the Amazon burned and Brazilians demonstrated their outrage, Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro went to a comedy club.
As the president’s pre-recorded speech to the nation explaining how he planned to use the army to fight the fires – while simultaneously insisting that the rate of burning of the forest was nothing out of the ordinary – was broadcast on television on Friday night, he was at a standup show in Brasília by right-wing Christian comic Jonathan Nemer.
The Amazon fires crisis has taken on international dimensions. It could jeopardise a trade deal between the European Union and South American trade bloc, Mercosur, that took 20 years to complete, and it will be discussed at this weekend’s G7 summit. Yet on Friday, as the O Estado de S Paulo newspaper revealed, Bolsonaro took a break from the rising pressure by listening to Nemer’s jokes.
The UOL site calculated that Bolsonaro was at the show at the same time as his broadcast aired. And Nemer himself posted a photo with a beaming Bolsonaro and first lady Michelle before the show on his Instagram.
“Standup in Brasília is always a success, always full, but today we have the presence of someone very special … Bolsonaro!” he said in a video that he posted, before leading the chant of “Legend, legend” that is popular among Bolsonaro supporters.
Nemer demonstrated his pro-Bolsonaro stance in one standup show before the second round of voting in last year’s presidential election, playing losing leftist candidate Fernando Haddad as possessed by the devil of imprisoned former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who had come to “finish Brazil off”.
Nemer also appears to share Bolsonaro’s scatological obsession. One video on Nemer’s YouTube channel is called Fart in Public and features him walking around in public pretending to break wind before revealing that it is a prank. “Did it seem real?” he asked one giggling woman in a clothes shop, showing off an electronic fart gadget. “No smell at all.”
Bolsonaro exposed himself to worldwide ridicule in March when he tweeted a video of a performer urinating on another on top of a bus shelter during Carnival to expose “what many street carnival groups have become” at Brazil’s biggest street party. In another tweet, he then asked: “What is a golden shower?”
On 16 August the Poder 360 (Power 360) political news site published five videos from this month alone in which the president used the word “cocô” – “poo” in Portuguese – five times in interviews.
In one, he told a reporter to defecate every other day to help the environment. In a speech, he said: “We are going to end the poo in Brazil. The poo is this race of corrupt and communists.” And in a freewheeling Facebook Live broadcast, he provided an impression of boiling faeces in a chemical toilet in 45C heat as he criticised a fine handed to a businessman for not providing a chemical toilet to employees.
At a press conference on Saturday, Bolsonaro’s defence minister, Fernando Azevedo e Silva, and environment minister, Ricardo Salles, explained how the army would fight the fires, stressing how important it was for Amazon states to cooperate. At the same time, at the G7 summit in Biarritz, the French president Emmanuel Macron called for the international community to help Brazil and its neighbours fight the fires.
Bolsonaro tweeted a link to an old television interview with Gen Eduardo Villas Bôas, in which the former commander of the army described his surprise when one of his officers found the king of Norway in a village in the Yanomami indigenous reserve during a past operation.
“In the words of General Villas Bôas, the real international interest is the Amazon. It hurts the soul to see Brazilians not seeing the fabricated campaign against our sovereignty in the region,” he tweeted.