Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Thursday justified his decision to reject help offered by Argentina to combat the devastating floods in the northeast state of Bahia with the argument that sending 10 men "would not be of much help" and could even "hinder" the work.
"I thank [President] Alberto Fernández for the offer, but 10 people would not be of much help to us, perhaps they would even hinder a little" the tasks already being carried out by various Brazilian institutions such as the Armed Forces and Firefighters, Bolsonaro said on Thursday in his weekly social media broadcast.
"It would be very difficult for us because it would be a group that would have to be treated with great care, special accommodation, transport, etc.... And we already have people in Brazil for that kind of mission," said the Brazilian president, who had earlier than that thanked on Twitter for "Argentina's fraternal offer".
On Monday, Argentina's ambassador in Brasilia, Daniel Scioli, offered his government's help to Brazil to combat the dramatic effects of the floods caused by heavy rains in recent days, which have left 25 people dead, 90,000 displaced and a trail of destruction in several municipalities in the southern region of Bahia.
"We put at the disposal of the federal government and the governor of the state of Bahia disinfectants and water purifiers, as well as professionals specialised in their use, in the assembly of UNHCR shelters, in the logistics of donations and in psychosocial containment," he wrote.
Bolsonaro, who has a tense relationship with the Fernández government, said Thursday on Twitter that the aid offered by Argentina "was unnecessary at the time, but can be activated in due course."
He also reiterated that his government "is open to international aid and donations" and reported that the Foreign Ministry had accepted donations of tents, mattresses and blankets from the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), among other organisations.
Alberto Fernández is an ally of former leftist president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-2010), the Brazilian president's likely rival in next year's elections, which polls suggest he will win comfortably.
"It is unfortunate to see a president who does not help reject the help of other people," Lula also lamented on Twitter.
Although he sent several ministers and released resources for the reconstruction of roads in the region, Bolsonaro has been facing harsh criticism for several days for continuing to holiday with his family in southern Brazil and not going personally to the disaster zone, which he flew over on 12 December.