BRASILIA: China, Brazil’s top trading partner, has demanded an official apology after the son of President Jair Bolsonaro blamed the “Chinese dictatorship” for the coronavirus global pandemic.
Eduardo Bolsonaro accused China of misleading the world about the scale of the virus outbreak, comparing its management of the crisis with the soviet regime’s handling of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986.
“It’s China’s fault and freedom is the solution,” Eduardo, a federal lawmaker and strong advocate of his father’s policy of full political alignment with the US, said in a Twitter post.
China’s embassy in Brasilia responded that, during a recent trip to Miami, Eduardo Bolsonaro caught a “mental virus that is infecting the friendship between our people” and that he is imitating his “dear friends”.
It was an allusion to Bolsonaro’s recent trip to the US, where he met his counterpart Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago. At least 16 members of the Brazilian delegation have since tested positive for coronavirus.
The spat threatens efforts by President Bolsonaro to warm up ties with China, a country he had repeatedly criticised during the campaign trail.
China overtook the US as Brazil’s top trading partner a decade ago due to its vast appetite for raw materials such as iron and soybeans.
Chinese companies also invest heavily in the Latin American nation, which is seeking international bidders for its plans to sell hundreds of billions of dollars of state assets.
On his personal Twitter account, China’s Ambassador to Brazil Yang Wanming demanded an apology and said Eduardo Bolsonaro lacks both common sense and a vision on global affairs.
The Chinese embassy also shared a tweet, later deleted, calling the Bolsonaro family “poison” for Brazil, which prompted an angry reaction from Brazil Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo.
In a statement, Araujo also demanded an apology from China, which didn’t happen.
Eduardo later said he had no intention of offending the Chinese people.
Congress President David Alcolumbre, himself diagnosed with coronavirus, apologised to China in the name of the Brazilian parliament and said China’s management of the crisis sets an example to the world.
Brazil’s agriculture caucus, comprised of over 300 lawmakers, said the country seeks to maintain the highest level of bilateral relations with China and that “isolated reactions don’t represent the nation’s sentiment”.
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