Biden 2020

'When saliva runs out, one has to have gunpowder,' Brazil's Bolsonaro says in swipe at Biden

FILE PHOTO: Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro looks on during a ceremony at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil November 9, 2020. REUTERS/Adriano Machado

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who portrays himself as a close friend of U.S. President Donald Trump, took a swipe at President-elect Joe Biden, referring to Biden as a “candidate” and assailing him for his stand on the Amazon rainforest.

Bolsonaro is one of a small group of prominent world leaders yet to congratulate Biden, who won last week’s presidential election and is due to enter the White House on Jan. 20.

Speaking at an event on Tuesday, Bolsonaro took issue with Biden’s call during a U.S. presidential debate in September for Brazil to fight deforestation with foreign help or face unspecified “economic consequences.”

“We saw recently there a great candidate to head of state say that if I don’t put out the fire in the Amazon, he will put up commercial barriers against Brazil,” Bolsonaro said.

“And how can we deal with all that? Just diplomacy is not enough ... When saliva runs out, one has to have gunpowder, otherwise it doesn’t work.”

The Brazilian leader’s comments could herald a rocky start in relations with Biden, whose agenda with Brazil could be topped by Amazon deforestation and human rights.

Reporting by Ricardo Brito, writing by Stephen Eisenhammer, editing by Howard Goller