United Nations Headquarters
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday was unlike his previous speeches to world leaders. The Brazilian president has been touting Brazil’s development under his administration and attacking his political opponents, appearing more focused on attracting voters at home, as the country’s presidential election approaches next month.
The first world leader to speak at the podium of the United Nations headquarters in New York City, Bolsonaro has spent much of his speech describing economic and political achievements, saying that poverty, inflation and unemployment are declining in the country.
All of these indicators have already shown a slight decline in the past two to three months, although the overall economic picture has been somewhat clearer, with one in 10 Brazilians currently out of work and inflation at 8.73% in August, compared to the same month. from last year.
The president, who has long styled himself as a business friend, has also argued that privatization and deregulation under his government have fostered a better economic environment in the country, and has called for this model of governance to continue — an imprecise call for re-election.
The right-wing Bolsonaro faces former left-wing president Luis Inacio Lula da Silva at the polls in October, and appeared to criticize him directly in his speech, telling the assembled world leaders, “Only between 2003 and 2015, when the left ruled and around Brazil, did the indebtedness amount to Petrobras due to mismanagement, political division and deviations $170 billion,” referring to the state petroleum company.
“The person responsible for this was unanimously convicted in three cases,” he continued, in an unmistakable reference to da Silva, whose conviction was overturned by the Brazilian Supreme Court in March 2021 – paving the way for the former leader to launch a political challenge to Bolsonaro. this year.
Socially conservative themes from Bolsonaro’s election campaign also emerged during his speech at the United Nations. “Other core values of Brazilian society, which are reflected in the human rights agenda, are the defense of the family, the right to life from pregnancy, self-defense, and the renunciation of gender ideology,” he said.
As in previous years, the Brazilian president also disputed environmental concerns about Brazil’s management of the vast Amazon rainforest, telling the General Assembly that two-thirds of the entire Brazilian territory is still covered with native vegetation, “which is exactly what it was when Brazil was discovered in 1500.”
“In the Brazilian Amazon, a region equivalent to Western Europe, more than 80% of the forests are untouched, contrary to what is reported by the major national and international media,” Bolsonaro added.
However, under Bolsonaro’s presidency, deforestation rates in the Amazon have skyrocketed, and the president himself has openly called for more development and economic activity that takes advantage of the country’s natural resources and vast protected forests.
As CNN previously reported, between 2019 — when Bolsonaro took office — and 2021, Brazil lost more than 33,800 square kilometers (13,000 square miles) of rainforest in the Amazon according to the Brazilian Aerospace Research Institute (INPE), a government agency. This is an area larger than Belgium, with an average of 11,000 square kilometers (4,250 sq mi) lost annually.
His rival da Silva – or Lula, as he’s widely known – is seen as more likely to be an environmentalist, telling CNN Brazil recently that in his government “there will be no deforestation in the Amazon.” During his presidency, which ran from 2002 to 2010, deforestation fell 65% in Brazil, according to INPE.
Brazilian domestic politics is not new to many in New York, where Bolsonaro supporters and critics have been seen broadcasting their views in the streets around the United Nations headquarters.