Brazil’s tourism ambassador has threatened to choke Emmanuel Macron and called his wife Brigitte “ugly” amid a continuing war of words between the French president and the Brazilian government over the fires in the Amazon rainforest.
In a video posted on social media, Renzo Gracie accused Mr Macron, who has criticised Brazil’s response to the devastating blazes, of “talking rubbish” about his country.
“The only fire going on is the fire inside Brazilian hearts and our president’s heart, you clown. Come over here you’ll be caught by the neck, that chicken neck. You don’t fool me,” said Mr Gracie, a 52-year-old mixed martial arts fighter appointed to public office last month by Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s far-right president.
In a subsequent interview with Brazilian news outlet UOL, Mr Gracie complained tourism appeared to be declining in the country due to the “false fires”, claiming without evidence that the burning of the rainforest was at normal levels.
“This gang of clowns only open their mouths to speak ill of our country,” Mr Gracie said. “Of course a bunch of people will be surprised, they’ll think I called him chicken because I was questioning his manhood, but I’ve seen plenty of gay men who are more manly than this imbecile.”
Mr Gracie’s homophobic outburst came a week after Mr Macron condemned Mr Bolsonaro for “extraordinarily disrespectful comments” about his wife.
In a post on Mr Bolsonaro’s Facebook page, a user insulted the 66-year-old French first lady by comparing her appearance with that of Mr Bolsonaro’s wife, Michelle, implying the younger woman was more attractive.
The supporter suggested Mr Macron was jealous, and that that was why he was “persecuting” the Brazilian leader. Mr Bolsonaro hit “like” on the post, writing: “Don’t humiliate the guy … ha ha.”
Asked about alleged derogatory comments he himself had made about Brigitte, Mr Gracie called Mr Macron’s wife a “dragon”.
“I’ll ask you a question, is his wife beautiful or ugly? Would you take it? If you’re going to talk rubbish about our country, you better be ready to listen to some rubbish back, and about your relatives. The fact he sleeps with a dragon doesn’t make him a fire expert. She’s ugly, brother,” he said.
Despite belated efforts to stop deforestation – the major source of Brazil’s fires – there were more than 2,000 fire outbreaks in the Amazon in the 48 hours after the government on Thursday imposed a burning ban, according to the country’s National Space Research Institute.
The escalating environmental crisis led G7 countries last month to pledge $20m (£16.3) in aid, an offer which Mr Bolsonaro initially rejected but later said he would consider if Mr Macon “withdraws his insults”.
Those perceived insults came at a G7 summit in France, during which the French president sought to build international consensus for action in the Amazon, amid fears Mr Bolsonaro’s policies prioritise economic growth even if it comes at the expense of the rainforest.
Mr Bolsonaro accused Mr Macron of adopting a “colonialist” mindset at the summit. In return, Mr Macron questioned the Brazilian president’s trustworthiness and commitment to protecting biodiversity.