Between elections and the rainforest: The heads of state of America’s most populous countries have met for the first time. The meeting was eagerly awaited.

At the eagerly awaited first meeting between US President Joe Biden and Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, the heads of state discussed the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest and the upcoming presidential elections in Brazil.

“You have made real sacrifices as a country to protect the Amazon,” Biden said Thursday at the talks on the sidelines of the America Summit in Los Angeles. In recent years, Biden has repeatedly criticized Bolsonaro for not doing enough to stop the massive deforestation of the rainforest. “I think the rest of the world should help fund it so you can get as much as possible.”

Protection of the Amazon region as a topic

Bolsonaro said Brazil has strict environmental laws and its government is doing everything it can to enforce them. In fact, he sees the Amazon region primarily as untapped economic potential and wants to open up even more land for agriculture, mining and energy production. Critics accuse him of having created a social climate in which farmers also feel encouraged to take land illegally for agricultural use. It has also weakened environmental and control authorities. During his tenure, deforestation in the Amazon increased significantly.

Bolsonaro is standing for re-election in October, but is well behind left-wing former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in the polls. Like Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump, he casts doubts about the legality of the vote in advance. “We want honest, clean, transparent and reliable elections so that there is not a shadow of a doubt afterwards,” said the ex-military man. “I’m pretty sure the elections will be held in that democratic spirit.”