Bolsonaro uses UN rostrum to defend his administration

Addressing heads of state, the president gave a speech at the opening of the UN General Assembly in defense of his administration with inaccuracies about the Amazon and the covid-19 pandemic

Foto: Cesar Itiberê/PR Foto: Cesar Itiberê/PR

President Jair Bolsonaro delivered a speech this Tuesday, September 20, at the opening of the 77th Session of the UN General Assembly, in New York. The place reserved for heads of state from around the world to discuss major global challenges for the promotion of peace, democracy and human rights, however, was used once again by the Brazilian president to defend his government in a speech full of inaccuracies, particularly on environmental management and the covid-19 pandemic.

By reinforcing the image of Brazil as the breadbasket of the world, the president ignores the pressure that agribusiness exerts on territories and forest populations and the fact that his government has been breaking annual deforestation records. According to Imazon (Amazon Institute of People and the Environment), based on data from SAD (Deforestation Warning System), Brazil lost an area equivalent to seven times the city of São Paulo in 2022, with 10,781 km2 of native forest destroyed – the highest rate in 15 years. Since 2019, the start of the Bolsonaro government, the Amazon has lost an area of 32,857 km2, larger than the size of the state of Alagoas.

Os dados acima contrastam com outra informação presente no discurso do presidente: a de que o Brasil estaria avançando, segundo o presidente,  “a passos largos” para o ingresso como membro pleno da OCDE (Organização para a Cooperação e Desenvolvimento Econômico). No entanto,  a política ambiental também será avaliada para a adesão do país ao bloco. As organizações da sociedade civil têm apontado que o desmonte das políticas socioambientais e ataques à democracia demonstram que o Brasil não parece disposto a adotar práticas, políticas e padrões de boa governança que a OCDE exige.

The data above contrasts with the information given in the president’s speech: that Brazil was progressing, according to the president, “by leaps and bounds” towards full membership of the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development). However, environmental policy will also be assessed as part of the country’s accession to the bloc. Civil society organizations have pointed out that the dismantling of environmental and social policies and the attacks on democracy demonstrate that Brazil does not appear willing to adopt the practices, policies and standards of good governance required by the OECD.

Another topic of his speech far removed from the policies practiced in the country refers to the behavior of the government in relation to the covid-19 pandemic. When praising the Brazilian vaccine rollout, the president neglected to say that he himself did not get vaccinated, adopting a broad disinformation campaign about vaccines and encouraging the population to boycott the social isolation measures adopted by state governments. Bolsonaro also downplayed the severity of the virus, encouraged gatherings and making light of mask wearing.

According to Camila Asano, program director at Conectas Human Rights, the president transformed a venue for diplomacy, dialogue and struggle for human rights into a place to defend his administration and attack the national and international press by accusing it of lying about the destruction of the Amazon.

“Brazilian diplomacy has traditionally been a source of pride and prominence for the country with the international community. However, since taking office, President Bolsonaro has transformed the country into a source of embarrassment in the corridors of the UN on account of his undiplomatic positions, attacks on already guaranteed rights and regrettable international episodes,” said Asano.

“The misuse of the venue historically granted to Brazil by the United Nations to promote a discourse primarily in defense and promotion of his own administration to an internal audience will not be well received by the international community, when the Brazilian head of state should be there to present the country’s positions on major global challenges,” she concluded.

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