Elon Musk Meets With Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro surrounded by military and security officials.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro arrives to a resort hotel where he is expected to meet with Elon Musk in Porto Feliz, Brazil on Friday.
photo: André Penner (AP)

There’s a lot of scandals hitting Tesla CEO Elon Musk all at once, but at least he knows he has a friend in Brazil’s deforester-in-chief Jair Bolsonaro, a right-wing demagogue who similarly to Muskhas a very hard time taking any sort of public criticism, and has tried using the power of his office to make sure his conspiracies don’t get deplatformed.

Musk’s trip down south was reportedly meant to include talks about internet connectivity within the country alongside concerns of rapid deforestation. The Brazilian Amazon has seen a 15-year high under the three-year Brazilian president, which has scientists concerned it could lead to a total ecological collapse.

While making vague and unconvincing overtures to preserving the Amazon, Bolsonaro reportedly lauded the tech billionaire for his Twitter stance. The Brazilian president told the SpaceX CEO that his planned takeover of Twitter is “a breath of hope,” adding “Freedom is the cement for the future.” Musk has repeatedly said he doesn’t agree with Twitter account perma-bans, and wants to effectively open up the platform for anybody and everybody to post what they want. The billionaire has proposed incredibly vague ideas for which tweets could require content moderation, including anything that is “illegal or otherwise just destructive to the world,” or just “wrong or bad.”

Bolsonaro, the ultra-right and violent figure who has defended the 20-year military dictatorship of his country that ended nearly 40 years ago, has claimed that companies like Twitter are “left-wing” and are silencing people like him. He has used those platforms to attack the Brazilian electoral system much in the same way former President Donald Trump did for the 2020 election. After Trump was banned, Bolsonaro told his supporters to avoid much of current social media.

Musk is apparently seeking praise from wherever he can get it. He is currently embroiled in scandal after Insider reported Thursday about a SpaceX flight attendant who was allegedly sexually harassed by Musk, and that she was then paid $250,000 for her silence.

Alongside the sexual harassment accusation, Musk is being taken to task in a new FX and New York Times documentary that examines how the billionaire has responded to crashes involving his Tesla cars autopilot feature. Reporters say that Musk pressured lawmakers into curbing investigations into those crashes.

Other than for his Twitter stance, it’s no wonder that Bolsonaro is rolling out the red carpet for the world’s richest man. The president is five months out from a tense election this October, and Bloomberg reported Friday that Musk is a celebrity among Bolsonaro’s right-wing base. Musk himself proclaimed himself for the Republicans in a tweet Thursday afternoon.

Trying to get away from this accusation, Musk would apparently rather talk about his lingering plans for self-driving cars with the Brazilian strongman, despite the new documentary making the rounds. Of course, Musk has long promised completely autonomous vehicles, so it’s not like this is anything revelatory.


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