Brazilian Bolsonaro remains defiant on COVID and environment issues at UN: NPR

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro removes his protective mask to address the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

Eduardo Munoz / AP


hide caption

toggle legend

Eduardo Munoz / AP


Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro removes his protective mask to address the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

Eduardo Munoz / AP

As he stepped onto the podium at the United Nations in New York, Brazil’s far-right leader President Jair Bolsonaro remained defiant against his many detractors.

“I came here to show a different Brazil than what is shown in the newspapers and on television,” he told the chamber. “Brazil has changed – and a lot – since we took office in January 2019.”

The UN works from an “honor system” – and that alone – to ensure that world leaders have been immunized before speaking at the annual gathering. Bolsonaro, who tested positive in July 2020, is not himself vaccinated and has made no secret of it. Yet on Tuesday he was allowed to deliver his speech in person.

So far, his trip to New York for the UN General Assembly seems to be anything but a success for Brazil, its leaders or the image of the country after several blunders earlier this week.

First, a member of Bolsonaro’s team tested positive for COVID-19 upon arrival in New York a few days before the Brazilian delegation arrived for the meeting of world leaders.

Then the Brazilian Minister of Health Marcelo Queiroga, who was vaccinated in March, shared that he has also tested positive for COVID-19 just hours after accompanying Bolsonaro to New York.

In his speech on Tuesday, Bolsonaro did not mention his own vaccine status and mainly focused on misinformation when he spoke about the coronavirus. He also fended off criticism of his government’s dismal political and environmental record.

Bolsonaro supports unproven COVID treatments in speech

A view of the COVID-19 intensive care unit in Rio De Janeiro on May 27.

Fabio Teixeira / Agence Anadolu via Getty Images


hide caption

toggle legend

Fabio Teixeira / Agence Anadolu via Getty Images


A view of the COVID-19 intensive care unit in Rio De Janeiro on May 27.

Fabio Teixeira / Agence Anadolu via Getty Images

Throughout the pandemic, Brazil has often been one of the countries with the highest number of infections, just behind the United States for some time. According to Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 global tracker, Brazil recorded 591,440 deaths from the virus as of Wednesday morning.

Authorities there faced low oxygen supplies, overcrowded hospitals and low vaccination rates. In June, a government investigation revealed Bolsonaro’s mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic. He revealed that at first his government did not buy or reject offers to sell Brazilian vaccines more than 14 times.

But during Bolsonaro’s UN speech this week, he went so far as to recommend treatments for unproven and ineffective coronaviruses.

“From the start, in my country, I warned that we had two problems to solve, the virus and unemployment, and that the two problems had to be treated simultaneously and with the same sense of responsibility,” he said. declared.

Bolsonaro said the Brazilian media had just “politicized” the virus and caused panic.

“Under the slogans ‘stay home’ and ‘we’ll take care of the economy later’, they almost caused social chaos in the country,” he said. “But our administration in a bold move has put in place several economic measures that have prevented greater evil.”

Bolsonaro said he did not understand why many countries and the media were rejecting unproven and ineffective coronavirus treatments, saying he himself took the drugs after being infected.

“History and science will hold everyone accountable,” he added.

There is a serious risk of the spread of COVID among world leaders

Another of Bolsonaro’s ministers shared a photo of the delegation eating a slice of pizza outside on the sidewalk in New York City.

In a city often famous for its restaurants, it’s rare to find a world leader having a quick bite to eat. But the unvaccinated Bolsonaro and his entourage will be limited in their dining options given the city’s requirement that diners inside be vaccinated.

A United Nations employee cleans the lectern microphones after Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who openly said he was not vaccinated against COVID-19, addressed the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday.

Eduardo Munoz / AP


hide caption

toggle legend

Eduardo Munoz / AP


A United Nations employee cleans the lectern microphones after Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who openly said he was not vaccinated against COVID-19, addressed the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday.

Eduardo Munoz / AP

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio criticized Bolsonaro for attending the annual meeting on Monday.

“We have to send a message to all world leaders, including especially Bolsonaro from Brazil, that if you are going to come here you have to be vaccinated,” de Blasio said at a daily briefing.

After images of Bolsonaro and his delegation enjoying a slice of the sidewalk were shared on social media, de Blasio responded on Twitter, urging Bolsonaro to get vaccinated.

There also remains a risk of the virus spreading after, before its quarantine, Queiroga was filmed shaking hands with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Johnson met with President Biden at the White House on Tuesday.

According to Brazilian journalist Raquel Krähenbühlearlier today Queiroga was in the same van as the Brazilian Foreign Minister who met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Krähenbühl also shared that Queiroga stayed at the same hotel as Biden.

The alleged environmental record is at odds with reality

Even with last summer’s decree banning fires throughout Brazil for 120 days, a fire brigade found itself grappling with flames in August at a farm near the town of Novo Progresso.

Ernesto Carriço / NurPhoto via Getty Images


hide caption

toggle legend

Ernesto Carriço / NurPhoto via Getty Images


Even with last summer’s decree banning fires throughout Brazil for 120 days, a fire brigade found itself grappling with flames in August at a farm near the town of Novo Progresso.

Ernesto Carriço / NurPhoto via Getty Images

Elsewhere in his address, Bolsonaro sought to improve the country’s environmental record.

“What other country in the world has an environmental protection policy like ours? Bolsonaro asked.

But under his leadership, there was a spike in deforestation in the Amazon. Last year, the Brazilian Amazon lost an area 14 times the size of New York City due to deforestation. This is the most in 12 years. Part of the reason is that Bolsonaro weakened government environmental agencies fighting illegal mining and logging.

Parts of the Amazon rainforest now release more carbon dioxide than they absorb.

Marcio Astrini, executive director of the Climate Observatory, a coordination group of environmental NGOs, said The Guardian this week that Bolsonaro twisted the statistics in an attempt to defend its environmental record.

“It’s just not true – it’s a lie,” Asstrini said of Bolsonaro’s claim that 84% of the Amazon rainforest was intact. “Someone makes up these numbers and the president repeats them.”

Astrini said the only thing that could lead to an improvement in Brazil would be Bolsonaro’s resignation.