Brazil's Former President Says Bolsonaro Is Ideologically Guided by a Flat-Earther: 'There Is Stupidity at a High Level Governing Our Country'

The former president of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, has accused the incumbent leader Jair Bolsonaro of "stupidity" and says he has trashed his country's reputation.

Silva, a left-wing president who served from 2003 to 2011, said that the far-right populist, Bolsanaro, is guilty of causing "tremendous evil to the Brazilian people" due to his environmental policies which are being blamed for a spike in fires in the Amazon basin.

So far in 2019, Brazil has reported 83,000 fires which is a 77 percent increase on the same period last year, according to Sky News.

Silva is serving a 25-year jail term for two corruption convictions he disputes as politically motivated. He told the BBC from his prison in the city of Curitiba that Bolsanaro's actions are "partly through evil, partly through ignorance."

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva
Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva gestures to supporters at the Metalworkers' Union in the Sao Bernardo do Campo section of Sao Paulo, Brazil in April 2018. He has slammed his successor's policies. Victor Moriyama/Getty Images

Silva said: "Many times you hear him speaking and you notice he doesn't know what he's talking about. They are deforesting as if Brazil and the world didn't lack forests. It's an old argument. The people who are setting the Amazon on fire used to do the same in the past. People seem to think that to preserve the forest, to tackle global warming, is foolish. There is stupidity at a high level governing our country today."

The former left-wing leader reflected that in the past Brazil was a major global player with a "privileged" relationship with major countries, but that has changed under Bolsanaro's far-right policies.

Bolsonaro has been criticized internationally for his rhetoric, which has included homophobic and misogynistic comments.

President Jair Bolsonaro
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro delivers a speech during the International Youth Day celebration at Planalto Palace in Brasilia on August 16, 2019. EVARISTO SA/AFP/Getty Images

Silva reflected how his country was once "highly respected" and that "no one discussed environmental preservation without talking to Brazil."

When asked what kind of relations Brazil has with other countries now, Silva replied: "He has no relationships. Because Bolsonaro is ideologically guided by someone that doesn't believe the world is round. He thinks the planet is flat."

This appears to be referring to Olava de Carvalho, a key adviser to the president, who in a Facebook post in 2017, suggested there were no definitive answers to questions like evolution and whether the Earth is flat.

"The relationship of a country with another, the relationship between states, you can't offend people as Trump does or as Bolsonaro does. You do it based on dialogue," Silva said.

On Wednesday, Bolsonaro accused the West of trying to "buy" Brazil's sovereignty after the G7 offered $20 million to help fight the fires. A day later Bolsonaro said he would meet other South American leaders to discuss protection of the rain forest on September 6.