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Elon Musk Brazil trip: Tesla CEO gets thumbs-up from Jair Bolsonaro

Elon Musk’s efforts to buy Twitter Inc. received the enthusiastic backing of President Jair Bolsonaro during a short and unexpected visit to Brazil, where allegations of fake news spreading through social media are a hot issue ahead of October’s election.
By: BLOOMBERG
Updated on: May 22 2022, 13:37 IST
Musk has become even more popular among Bolsonaro’s supporters after announcing he wanted to take control of Twitter to defend “freedom of speech.” (AFP)
Musk has become even more popular among Bolsonaro’s supporters after announcing he wanted to take control of Twitter to defend “freedom of speech.” (AFP)

Elon Musk’s efforts to buy Twitter Inc. received the enthusiastic backing of President Jair Bolsonaro during a short and unexpected visit to Brazil, where allegations of fake news spreading through social media are a hot issue ahead of October’s election.

The world’s richest man was invited by the Brazilian government to discuss investment plans, implementation of new technology to monitor Amazon deforestation and a project to take broadband Internet to far-flung regions, including rural schools and indigenous communities, the communications ministry said in a statement on Friday.

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But it was the planned purchase of Twitter that was highlighted by Bolsonaro when the two men spoke to a group of business leaders and students gathered at a hotel where the meeting took place, about 70 miles from Sao Paulo. 

“We received your announcement about the purchase of Twitter as a breath of hope,” Bolsonaro told Musk, calling him a protector of freedom. “The whole world is suffering with people who are willing to steal that freedom from us.” 

Musk has become even more popular among Bolsonaro’s supporters after announcing he wanted to take control of Twitter to defend “freedom of speech.” The right-wing Brazilian president, often compared with Donald Trump, has had several of his own social media posts taken down by Twitter and Facebook after the companies determined he was spreading falsehoods about topics including the Covid-19 pandemic and the safety of Brazil’s electronic voting system. 

Bolsonaro, under investigation in Brazil for allegedly spreading fake news, has been stepping up his rhetoric against the country’s top court and electoral authorities as the October election gets closer. That is raising concerns among political experts that, just like Trump did, he could dispute the result of the vote if he were to lose. 

Musk, answering questions from students before Bolsonaro’s remarks, spoke broadly about his big projects, including efforts to develop self-driving cars, and the positive impact he believes they would have on the economy.

Later, speaking to reporters about the result of the meeting, Bolsonaro didn’t announce any concrete deal with Musk’s companies, but said his government is very interested in partnering with them. He suggested the chief executive of Tesla Inc. take a closer look at niobium, a metal mostly found in southeastern Brazil, to possibly make batteries. Musk didn’t attend the news briefing.

“We’ve just began dating and I’m sure it will end in marriage,” Bolsonaro said, repeating one of his favorite metaphors. 

Musk joined the group of business people for lunch at the hotel and returned to the US shortly after, according to Brazil’s communications ministry.

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First Published Date: 22 May, 13:37 IST
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