The Guardian’s Latin America correspondent, Tom Phillips, watched Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro tell delegates he had come to introduce the world “to a new Brazil”.
It is not one the world will much like, Phillips says:
In his 33-minute address – apparently penned by some of his most hawkish, hard-right advisers – Bolsonaro offered a snapshot of the introverted, conspiracy-obsessed and profoundly hubristic administration that now governs the world’s forth biggest democracy.
Some had hoped Bolsonaro might strike a more conciliatory tone as he addressed the world’s leaders at the UN for the first time. But within seconds it was clear they would be disappointed.
Bolsonaro began with a Trumpian assault on the evils of socialism which, he claimed, had nearly overrun Brazil under the centre-left government of his nemesis Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
Then, he lashed out at Emmanuel Macron’s France and the “lying” mainstream media for supposedly “sensationalizing” the ongoing fires in the Amazon which he falsely described as a “virtually untouched” region.
To the delight of his hard-line Pentecostal backers, he went on to rail against the politically-correct and ungodly progressives who had “perverted biology” and “were trying to destroy innocence of our children” by infecting them with gender ideology. “Ideology has invaded the very human soul,” Bolsonaro declared.
And with many looking on in perplexity, Bolsonaro wrapped up his over-long speech with his favourite quote from the Bible. “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free,” Bolsonaro said.
The muted applause left no doubt that many delegates cannot wait to be free of Brazil’s leader.
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Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro, who will be the first leader to speak this morning, plans to use his appearance to counter his portrayal as a rainforest-destroying foe of Brazil’s indigenous peoples.
In a bid to portray himself as an amigo of Brazil’s indigenous communities Bolsonaro has invited one of his few indigenous supporters, Ysani Kalapalo, to accompany him to New York.
Bolsonaro was also photographed wearing an indigenous necklace as he left his hotel last night.
But most of Brazil’s indigenous leaders are appalled by what they call Bolsonaro’s historic assault on the Amazon and his “colonialist and ethnocidal” plans to open indigenous territories to mining companies.
“Brazil’s indigenous people do not support this government,” Sônia Guajajara, one of Brazil’s best-known indigenous leaders, told the Guardian yesterday.
Of Bolsonaro’s decision to invite a rare indigenous supporter to New York, Guajajara said: “This is an attempt to trick the world and show he has support. But … it is another of his big lies. It doesn’t matter what image he wants to project. What matters are his actions – which the world whole is seeing.”
Guajajara hails from the northeastern state of Maranhão but is in New York as part of efforts to build an international alliance to counter Bolsonaro’s threat to Brazil’s forests and indigenous communities.
“Brazil is going through one of the worst moment in its history since the return of democracy and it is the responsibility of all of us to try and reverse these attacks,” Guajajara said.
On the podium this morning Bolsonaro is expected to paint himself as an ally of the Amazon.
Guajajara begs to differ: “The truth is that this is a dismantling of the future, of all our of our futures. When you permit deforestation, you permit mining and you deny people the right to their territories then you are denying all of us the right to existence.”
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