Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, has abruptly cancelled a US trip to receive a prestigious award following a storm of protest over his history of homophobic, racist and misogynist remarks and plans to erode environmentalprotections in the Amazon.
The cancellation, announced suddenly on Friday, came after the original venue ditched the event, the mayor of New York City attacked his presence and major corporate sponsors pulled out. Bolsonaro’s spokesman blamed ideological attacks from interest groups and Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York.
The cancellation is a humiliating climbdown for Bolsonaro who idolises the United States and was feted by Donald Trump during a March visit to Washington. Analysts said it is a sign of the international reprobation his extremist views and anti-environment positions are beginning to spark around the world.
“It is a very big embarrassment,” said Paulo Baía, a professor of political science at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.
The annual Person of the Year award ceremony was due to be hosted on 14 May by the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce. Alongside the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, Bolsonaro was to be honoured for “fostering closer commercial and diplomatic ties between Brazil and the United States” and his “commitment to building a strong and durable partnership” between both countries, the chamber said.
The gala event was originally due to be hosted at the American Museum of Natural History – but the museum pulled the event after criticism from LGBT and environmental groups. Last month Bolsonaro said Brazil could not become a “gay tourism” paradise and his government has come under fire for plans to dismantle Amazon protections and develop protected indigenous reserves.
“Jair Bolsonaro is a dangerous man,” tweeted de Blasio as he thanked the museum for its decision.
The gala event was moved to the Marriott Marquis hotel but then Delta Airlines and Bain & Company, a management consulting company, pulled out, CNN reported. The Financial Times followed suit.
“Actually showing up could have been a complete disaster, with protesters filling Times Square, and the event becoming a symbol of civil society standing up to the far-right leader,” said Oliver Stuenkel, a professor of international relations at São Paulo’s Getulio Vargas Foundation.
In a statement on Friday, Bolsonaro’s spokesman, General Otávio do Rêgo Barros blamed “resistance and deliberate attacks from the mayor of New York and pressure from groups of interest”. The general said these attacks had been “ideological”.
Maurício Santoro, a professor of international relations at the State University of Rio de Janeiro, said it was remarkable that Bolsonaro was facing such corporate protests just four months into his presidency.
“We can imagine what comes ahead,” he said.