Brazil's President Bolsonaro cancels trip to New York

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Brazilian President Jair BolsonaroImage source, Reuters
Image caption,
President Bolsonaro was due to attend the New York dinner on 14 May

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro has cancelled a planned trip to the United States after protests from gay rights and environmental campaigners.

Mr Bolsonaro was due to attend a ceremony in his honour in New York later in May organised by the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce.

Several venues in the city have decided not to host the event.

His spokesman blamed New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and the "pressure of interest groups".

The American Museum of Natural History had originally agreed to hold a gala dinner for the Brazilian president,

But it drew heavy criticism for agreeing to host a ceremony at which Mr Bolsonaro, who has advocated relaxing environmental policies, was scheduled to receive a person of the year award.

Other sponsors, including Delta Airlines, the Financial Times newspaper and management consultancy Bain & Co, have pulled out of the event.

"We have decided to withdraw our sponsorship of the ... 2019 Person of the Year Awards Gala Dinner," Bain said. "Encouraging and celebrating diversity is a core Bain principle."

President Bolsonaro would no longer attend the dinner, said his spokesman General Otavio Rego Barros, because of "the resistance and deliberate attacks by the mayor of New York and the pressure of interest groups" on the organisers of the event.

How did this row erupt?

The Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce, a non-profit non-governmental organisation that promotes trade, investment and cultural ties between the two countries, planned to honour the Brazilian president at a gala dinner.

At the annual event, the chamber gives out its person of the year awards. This year one of those prizes is due to go to Mr Bolsonaro, who was sworn in as Brazil's president on 1 January.

On its website, the organisation said it had chosen the far-right leader in recognition of "his strongly stated intention of fostering closer commercial and diplomatic ties between Brazil and the United States and his firm commitment to building a strong and durable partnership between the two nations".

Previous recipients of the award have included former US President Bill Clinton and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

What were the objections?

Climate activists and environmental organisations such as Greenpeace have denounced Mr Bolsonaro as "a threat to Brazil's ecosystem".

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Greenpeace has been a vocal opponent of President Bolsonaro

Most of those opposed to having the museum host the event pointed to the president's plans to open up parts of the Amazon rainforest for development, which they argued was not in keeping with the museum's mission.

In a radio interview on 8 April, President Bolsonaro said he wanted the US to join in a development plan for the Amazon region. He also said that demarcations of indigenous reserves hampered development of the region and that he would abolish them if he could find a way to legally do so.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said President Bolsonaro was a "very dangerous human being".

Mr de Blasio told radio station WNYC last month: "He's dangerous not just because of his overt racism and homophobia, but because he is unfortunately the person with the most ability to be able to impact what happens in the Amazon going forward."