Brazil's Bolsonaro meets Italy far-right leader

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Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro (L) and Italian Lega leader Matteo Salvini during a commemoration for Brazilian soldiers fallen during WWII in Pistoia, Italy (AFP/Handout)
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Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro met Italian far-right leader Matteo Salvini Tuesday in a ceremony for Brazilians killed in World War II, on a visit to Italy marred by controversy.

The Brazilian far-right leader chose to skip UN climate talks in Glasgow after the G20 summit in Rome to instead spend two days in northern and central Italy.

He was met by flag-waving supporters but also protesters on Monday when he collected an honorary citizenship from the northern town of Anguillara Veneta. Tuesday's programme was no less controversial.

The local bishop boycotted a ceremony attended by Bolsonaro and Salvini in the cemetery of the Tuscan town of Pistoia, where a monument remembers 500 Brazilians who died fighting the Nazis.

The diocese condemned the politicisation of the event, while neither the mayor of Pistoia nor the head of the Tuscan region turned out to welcome the Brazilian.

Salvini apologised for the protests, saying: "Honoring the fallen should be outside of political controversy."

Bolsonaro is under intense pressure back home over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, and has been widely criticised for his hardline stance on climate change.

Following Bolsonaro's visit Monday to Anguillara Veneta, home of his ancestors, he travelled to the Sant'Antonio basilica in Padua, where police used water cannon against hundreds of demonstrators.

The mayor of Anguillara Veneta, Alessandra Buoso, a member of Salvini's anti-immigrant League party, said the town honoured Bolsonaro to "reward the welcome that migrants from Anguillara Veneta have received in Brazil".

About a thousand inhabitants of the Italian town of 4,000 fled poverty to emigrate to Brazil at the end of the 19th century, among them Bolsonaro's ancestors.

"I am moved to be here. It's from here that my grandparents left" for Brazil, Bolsonaro said Monday.

After his visit to Pistoia, Bolsonaro visited Pisa, taking in a brief visit of the famous leaning tower before he was due to fly home to Brazil.

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