SAO PAULO, Brazil – Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro will participate by video in a regional summit on fires that have devastated the Amazon, his spokesman said Tuesday, September 3, after previously stating he would skip it altogether.
The far-right president, widely criticized over his support for Amazon deforestation and a delayed reaction to the wildfires, had said earlier this week that he would miss Friday's session in Colombia due to preparations for a surgery.
A liquid diet he was due to start on that day had made the trip unfeasible, spokesman Otavio Rego Barros had originally said.
But on Tuesday Barros reversed course, telling reporters that "we are scheduled to hold a videoconference on Friday at 11:30 am (1430 GMT)."
Bolsonaro's surgery, to be performed Sunday, is meant to correct an incisional hernia, his fourth operation since he was stabbed nearly a year ago during the presidential campaign.
Doctors said he would need 10 days' rest following the operation, which would be performed in Sao Paulo.
Earlier Monday, the president vowed to defend his controversial Amazon policy at the UN General Assembly later this month, even if he had to do so "in a wheelchair."
"I will appear before the UN even in a wheelchair, on a stretcher. I will appear because I want to talk about the Amazon," Bolsonaro told reporters outside his official residence in Brasilia.
Brazil traditionally makes the first speech at the General Assembly meeting, set for September 24.
Responding to criticism of his policy, Bolsonaro has accused France and Germany of attempting to buy Brazil's sovereignty after the G7 group of rich democracies offered $20 million in Amazon fire aid.
Bolsonaro has encouraged Brazilians to wear the country's colors – green and yellow – during upcoming Independence Day celebrations on Saturday to reaffirm Brazil's claim to the Amazon region. – Rappler.com