Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro is expected to defend Brazil’s record on the Amazon forest and reaffirm national sovereignty in his speech during the opening of the UN General Assembly this Tuesday (24th). Although he has announced that he will not use the occasion to pick a fight with counterparts, Bolsonaro may address Emmanuel Macron, who exhorted members of the G7 to take action concerning the forest, which he treated as “our house”.

Fires in the Amazon rainforest drew the international attention this summer, but Bolsonaro says the bad press against his government over environmental issues is being fuelled by countries that have interests in the weakening of Brazilian agriculture and in the mineral riches of the Amazon underground.

In his weekly Facebook live session, last Thursday, he said some countries, by funding national and foreign NGOs operating in the Amazon under the guise of preserving native Brazilian ways of life and territories, want to surreptitiously secure portions of mineral-rich lands for themselves. Since his days in Parliament, Bolsonaro has been calling attention to the presence of minerals such as niobium, used in alloys and superconductive magnets, in the Amazon.

“Some first-world countries want to keep them (indigenous people) in primitive ways, as if they were prehistoric men, in order to have those lands exploited in the future. What do those guys want? The riches that are underground,” he said on Facebook, adding that his election in 2018 frustrated those countries’ expectations.

“We would have an area nearly as big as the South and the Southeast defined as an indigenous people’s reservation. Everything in Brazil would be unfeasible. Bye bye agribusiness. Bye bye countryside men. This is the tendency: the suffocation of our agriculture.”

Assassination attempt: a mystery

The Brazilian was also planning to have bilateral talks with a number of leaders including Donald Trump and Boris Johnson while in New York, but his agenda was shortened following his doctor’s advice. Bolsonaro is still recovering from his last surgery, the third since the assassination attempt on him last year.

Since the attack, doctors have had to undo adherences in his intestine and perform a colostomy. This time, a hernia had to be corrected. The attempt against Bolsonaro’s life is cloaked in mystery. To this day, the Brazilian Federal Police doesn’t know who is paying the attacker’s lawyers.

On September 6 2018 in Juiz de Fora, Minas Gerais, Bolsonaro was being carried on supporters’ shoulders in a street demonstration when Adélio Bispo approached and stabbed him with a kitchen knife. According to the report of his testimony to the police, he supports the “left-wing ideology” and tried to kill Bolsonaro because the latter supports the “far-right wing ideology”. Adélio was once affiliated with PSOL, a socialist party with seats in the Congress.

Bolsonaro has called attention to many factors in the story that suggest a conspiracy, the most striking of them being that four lawyers presented themselves on the spot, a few hours after the stabbing, to represent Adélio, who was unemployed.

The Federal Police tried to find out where the money to pay the lawyers was coming from. However, the Brazilian Lawyers Order (“Ordem dos Advogados do Brasil” in Portuguese) got an injunction that exempted Zanone Junior, the head of Adélio’s defence team, from revealing that information.

In the immediate days following the crime, Zanone said the fees were being paid by a “religious leader” from Minas Gerais who wanted to remain anonymous. He changed the story later and said he had decided to defend Adélio for free, motivated by the high-profile nature of the case.

Last May, a federal judge concluded that Adélio Bispo suffers from persistent delirium and therefore cannot be criminally prosecuted under Brazilian law. He is to remain committed for an undetermined length of time in the prison he has been in since his arrest.