Elon Musk meets in Brazil with Bolsonaro, who praises him as a “myth of freedom” | International

President Bolsonaro and billionaire businessman Elon Musk at the Connect Amazonia event this Friday in Porto Feliz, one hour from São Paulo.
President Bolsonaro and billionaire businessman Elon Musk at the Connect Amazonia event this Friday in Porto Feliz, one hour from São Paulo.KENNY OLIVEIRA (AFP)

The businessman Elon Musk has made a brief trip to Brazil this Friday despite the fact that he is immersed in several crises, with the purchase of Twitter on hold and a complaint of sexual harassment that he denies. During his visit, the richest man in the world met President Jair Bolsonaro at an event on the Amazon at a luxury hotel in Porto Feliz, one hour from São Paulo. Musk has offered the Brazilian government his satellites to bring the Internet to 19,000 schools in remote regions and also to monitor the world’s largest tropical forest. Bolsonaro has taken advantage of Musk’s presence to praise him as a symbol of freedom, one of his electoral banners.

The billionaire explained, before a handful of businessmen and students, that he was coming to Brazil to see the country’s economic potential up close. The meeting between the two is the result of the contacts that the Bolsonaro government has had with Musk for a long time regarding the possibility of implementing the Internet via satellite thanks to Musk’s SpaceX technology, through the company Starlink. The businessman is looking for clients and has landed in Brazil at a time when Bolsonaro is seeking re-election against a Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who leads the polls, but by a margin that has shrunk.

At the beginning of this year, the Brazilian National Telecommunications Agency (Anatel) authorized the operation of Starlink, which aims to place satellites in low orbit that take the Internet to the most inaccessible places, where fiber optics and companies that supply Internet do not reach. The businessman’s idea, as he said on Twitter before landing, is to take the network to 19,000 schools. The problem, according to the Brazilian press, is the price.

Bolsonaro also wants to take advantage of the collaboration with Musk to neutralize criticism of his policy towards the Amazon and his image as an environmental villain: “We count on Musk to make the Amazon known to everyone in Brazil and the world, to show the exuberance of that region, how it is preserved and the damage caused to us by those who spread lies about that region.”

Few details have been offered about the project to bring the Internet to schools or the monitoring of the Amazon that the satellites would do. The largest tropical forest in the world and the deforestation that undermines it have been monitored with powerful satellites for years, a task carried out by an official Brazilian body, the National Institute for Space Research (INPE).

Musk presents his offer on Twitter as a battle for freedom of expression, something that fits like a glove with the interests of the Brazilian president. As Bolsonaro has stated, “the most important thing about his presence is something immaterial. Today, we could call it the myth of freedom.” What he has not said, but every Brazilian knows, is that Bolsonaro himself is nicknamed “myth” by his followers. And it is that for the president, turned into a pariah in multiple international forums, the public meeting with the billionaire businessman is worth gold five months before the presidential elections.

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The far-right would be delighted if Musk definitively bought Twitter and lifted the veto imposed on Donald Trump, as he has suggested, because he himself has already had several run-ins with technology companies that have suspended or deleted his messages on some occasions.

The magnate has landed on a private flight hours after it was published that SpaceX paid $250,000 to silence a stewardess who accused him of sexual harassment, something that he has flatly denied in a tweet.

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