Brazil's Bolsonaro presses Peru's Castillo on road through rainforest to access Pacific

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Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro and his Peruvian counterpart Pedro Castillo wave as they pose for a picture in Porto Velho, Rondonia state, Brazil, February 3, 2022. Alan Santos/Brazilian Presidency/Handout via REUTERS

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BRASILIA, Feb 3 (Reuters) - Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro met with Peru's President Pedro Castillo on Thursday and pressed him on a project to build a cross-border road that would allow Brazil access to the Pacific.

Peru has so far shown little interest in the plan, which would link Cruzeiro do Sul in the western Brazilian state of Acre to the Peruvian city of Pucallpa, across an area of virgin rainforest.

Bolsonaro reiterated the interest of the Brazilian government in building the road, creating "great potential to increase economic integration," said a joint statement issued after the meeting in the Acre capital of Porto Velho.

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Brazil's far-right leader donned a Peruvian cowboy hat and gave a thumbs-up sign as he posed for photos with Castillo, a member of a Marxist-Leninist party who has moved progressively to the right.

The two men agreed to facilitate trade between their countries, streamline customs red-tape and step up security on their borders to fight drug trafficking and arms smuggling, the joint statement said.

But the cross-border road, which has a cost estimate of some 500 million reais ($94 million) on the Brazilian side, has encountered resistance.

Environmentalists and federal prosecutors in Brazil oppose the project because it would cut through untouched rainforest for 110 kilometers (68 miles) in the Serra do Divisor National Park, one of the most untouched areas of Brazil.

But the Brazilian government's department of transportation has already authorized a tender to contract a company to build the road.

"We are interested in an exit to the Pacific. Here it just depends on us and Peru, and no other country," Bolsonaro told reporters before the meeting.

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Reporting by Lisandra Paraguassu; Writing by Carolina Pulice and Anthony Boadle; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien

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