Eduardo Munoz / AP
As he stepped onto the podium at the United Nations in New York, the far-right leader of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro remained defiant against his many detractors.
âI came here to show a different Brazil than what is shown in the newspapers and on television,â he told the chamber. âBrazil has changed, and a lot, since we took office in January 2019.â
The UN works from an “honor system” – and that alone – to make sure world leaders have been vaccinated before speaking at the annual gathering. Bolsonaro himself is not vaccinated and has not hidden it. Yet on Tuesday he was allowed to deliver his speech in person.
So far, his trip to New York for the United Nations General Assembly appears to be anything but a success for Brazil, its leaders or the country’s image 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 it also tested positive for COVID-19. This just a few 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
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. Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 Global Tracker Says, Brazil suffered 591,440 deaths from the virus on Wednesday morning.
Fabio Teixeira / Agence Anadolu via Getty Images
Authorities there faced a poor oxygen supply, overcrowded hospitals and low vaccination rates. In June, a government investigation revealed Bolsonaro’s mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic. He revealed that there were more than 14 times his government had failed to purchase or rejected offers to sell Brazilian vaccines early on.
But during Bolsonaro’s UN speech this week, he even went so far as to recommend unproven and ineffective coronavirus treatments.
“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.
âUnder the slogans ‘stay home’ and ‘we’ll take care of the economy later’, they almost caused social chaos in the country,â 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 for an unvaccinated Bolsonaro and his entourage, they will be limited in their dining options given the city’s requirement that diners inside be vaccinated.
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 the 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 KrÃ¤henbÃ¼hlearlier today Queiroga was in the same van as the Brazilian Foreign Minister who met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
KrÃ¤henbÃ¼hl also shared that Queiroga was staying at the same hotel as President Biden.
The alleged environmental record is at odds with reality
Elsewhere in his address, Bolsonaro sought to improve the country’s environmental record.
âWhat 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.
Ernesto CarriÃ§o / NurPhoto via Getty Images
Parts of the Amazon rainforest also release more carbon dioxide than they absorb.
Marcio Astrini, Executive Director of the Climate Observatory, a coordination group of environmental NGOs, Recount The Guardian this week that Bolsonaro twisted the statistics in an attempt to defend its environmental record.
âIt’s just not true – it’s a lie,â Astrini 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 is for Bolsonaro to step down.