Bolsonaro: Fact-checking claims by the Brazilian leader at UN

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President Bolsonaro at UN lecternImage source, Getty Images
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President Bolsonaro spoke on the first day of the UN General Assembly meeting

President Bolsonaro of Brazil, the first head of state to address this year's UN General Assembly in New York, made a number of claims about his record in office.

We've been looking at what he said, and how accurate he was.

'More than 140 million Brazilians, representing almost 90% of our adult population, have received...the first dose.'

President Bolsonaro has himself chosen not to be vaccinated.

He has also publicly cast doubt on vaccines, including at one point suggesting the side effects could turn people into crocodiles.

Image source, Getty Images
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More than half a million Brazilians have died from Covid, the second highest number globally

He caught Covid last year and argues that he has antibodies and doesn't need to be vaccinated.

Brazil is currently vaccinating anyone 12 years and older and according to government data, 142,205,968 Brazilians have had one dose.

And using World Bank population figures, that's more than 84% of the over 14s in Brazil who have had a single dose.

But so far only about 37% of the population is fully vaccinated, which offers the best protection against the virus.

That compares with more than 55% in the US, more than 61% in the EU and over 66% in the UK.

President Bolsonaro faced criticism over the initial slow rollout of the vaccination programme. He's also belittled measures such as mask-wearing and social distancing and called coronavirus a "little flu" while advocating unproven treatments.

'In the Amazon, deforestation was reduced by 32% in August in comparison with August the previous year... 84% of the forest is intact'

Brazil's National Space Research Institute (INPE) says the rate of deforestation in August this year is down on the rate in August 2020.

But some NGOs which monitor deforestation, question these figures. Imazon, which operates its own monitoring system, says its data do not show the rate of increase slowing down this year.

More data are expected to be released next month or in November, which may help clarify the picture.

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A section of the Amazon forest is systematically removed over a three-year period

The Climate Observatory NGO points out that the longer term deforestation trend is still upwards.

"In the five years prior to the Bolsonaro administration, the average deforestation rate in the Amazon was 6,719 sq km (2,590 sq miles)" they said in a statement.

"In the first two years of the current administration, the average rate was 10,490 sq km (4,050 sq miles), which means a 56% increase."

Mr Bolsonaro has been blamed for encouraging development in the rainforest, and cutting funding to official bodies meant to enforce environmental regulations.

Figures from the INPE currently show that just over 80% of the Amazon is intact.

Although scientists don't agree on how much deforestation could cause the rainforest to be unable to support its own ecosystems, it's thought by some to be as little as 20-25%.

'There has been not a single case of corruption in the past two years and eight months. '

This ignores the fact there've been on-going corruption cases since Mr Bolsonaro became president in 2019, including one relating to Covid vaccine procurement.

There's also an enquiry underway by Brazil's Congress, which is looking at the official pandemic response, including whether or not federal or state officials committed criminal negligence or corruption.

Mr Bolsonaro himself faces possible charges of negligence over allegations that he ignored irregularities linked to a multi-million dollar contract to buy coronavirus vaccines from India.

He has been accused by opposition politicians of ignoring concerns about the deal when they were flagged to him - something he has denied.

Some of Mr Bolsonaro's family and friends have also been linked to various investigations since he took office in 2019.

In November 2020, his son Flavio was formally accused of embezzlement, money laundering, misappropriation of funds and directing a "criminal organisation." He has denied any wrongdoing.

Brazil's top prosecutor is looking into allegations that President Bolsonaro had tried to interfere with the work of the federal police, who were looking into corruption cases. Mr Bolsonaro has denied this.

'Brazil is already an example in energy generation, with 83% coming from renewable sources'

Image source, Reuters
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The Furnas hydroelectric plant in Minas Gerais state

We found the figure used by President Bolsonaro in data from the Ministry of Mines and Energy, published in January this year..

It refers to energy supplied to the country's electricity grid.

Brazil is a world leader in hydro-electric power generation, which is estimated to supply nearly 80% of the electricity grid.

But this is not the same as the total energy mix, which includes other energy sources.

Figures the Brazilian government published in August show that just under half all the energy produced in Brazil was from renewable sources.

It's worth saying that the country has been increasing the amount of energy it gets from renewable sources - it went up to 46% in 2019 from less than 39% in 2014, according to Our World in Data figures.

But Brazil still relies to a significant extent on fossil fuels, and in 2019 nearly 40% of its total energy was from oil, with smaller amounts from natural gas and coal, according to the International Energy Agency.