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What president today dares to go against the politically established norms? To tell the truth, very few, and Jair Bolsonaro is one of them.
The president, together with his entourage, strolled through the streets of New York waiting to inaugurate the United Nations General Assembly. It is known worldwide that Bolsonaro is not vaccinated against COVID-19 and, in fact, Bill de Blasio, the Democratic mayor of New York City, warned the presidents of the world, especially the Brazilian one, that “If you don’t want to get vaccinated, don’t bother to come.”
Bolsonaro is not here to please his critics, nor his political enemies. He has proven that once and again. So not only did he not get vaccinated against COVID-19, but he was also able to enjoy a New York pizza that caused quite a stir, as the president ate it on the street, as just another tourist, since he could not enter any of the restaurants in the Big Apple that require vaccination passports.
The reactions in networks were spectacular. Some criticized Bolsonaro’s attitude for not wanting to get vaccinated, however, many people praised the president for showing simplicity and not falling to the blackmail of vaccination passports, a measure that Bolsonaro expressly opposes under the argument that getting a vaccination is an individual decision and responsibility.
In a meeting with the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, Bolsonaro was even offered to use AstraZeneca, the most widely used vaccine in the United Kingdom. The Brazilian president was categorical: “Not yet.”
A strong and sensible speech at the UN
Many institutions, countries, international organizations and the media wanted to see a downcast Jair Bolsonaro at the United Nations General Assembly. They were left wanting. The Brazilian president, following the tradition of the General Assembly, was the first to speak before the UN and his speech was one of the best and most discussed around the planet.
“It is an honor to inaugurate once again the United Nations General Assembly,” said Jair Bolsonaro before beginning to list some of his administration’s achievements that are questioned by his political adversaries. “I have come here to show a Brazil that is different from what is published in the newspapers or has been seen on television. Brazil has changed, and a lot, since we took office in January 2019.”
Bolsonaro said that his administration is managing to successfully fight corruption in addition to economically recovering the South American giant, he also commented that Brazilian environmental legislation is one of the most developed in the world and should be taken as a reference in other regions of the planet, this caused the indignation of the media and progressive “pro-environmental” groups that have been habitual critics of the Brazilian president.
Bolsonaro took full advantage of the twelve minutes of speech. The president took the opportunity to project his country to the world, presenting it with a thriving and powerful economy that is growing in infrastructure and has “everything investors are looking for: a large consumer market, excellent assets and a tradition of respect for contracts and trust in our government.”
“Brazil has the largest investment partnership program with the private sector in its history. This program is already a reality and is in full implementation,” Bolsonaro explained before the UN. “So far, $100 billion in new investments have been contracted and $23 billion was raised in concessions. In the area of infrastructure, we have auctioned, for private initiative, 34 airports and 29 port terminals.”
“We have already awarded more than $6 billion in private contracts for new railroads. We have introduced a system of railway authorizations, which brings our model closer to the American model,” he continued.
The president also recalled the importance of Brazil for its size and production capacity, especially in terms of agriculture and farming: “our modern, sustainable and low-carbon agriculture feeds more than 1 billion people in the world and only uses 8% of the national territory.”
Beyond the data presented by Bolsonaro, for his supporters accurate for his exaggerated critics, the most important part of his speech focused on the proclamation of values, in defense of private property, freedom and God. Also against the most radical left wing that for years scourged Latin America and also the South American giant.
“Brazil has a president who believes in God, who respects his military, values family and owes loyalty to his people,” the president said. “That’s a lot, it’s a solid foundation, if we take into account that we went to the brink of socialism.” At another point, the president commented that Brazil has “the traditional family as the basis of civilization. And human freedom is only completed with freedom of worship.”
Bolsonaro was emphatic in saying that his government is not in favor of mandatory vaccination that today many Western countries, including the United States, are imposing. In Brazil, the absence of vaccine passports is being an impediment to carry out a relatively successful vaccination process, since the country has already distributed some 260 million doses, administering, to date, more than 220 million doses.
He also recalled that Brazil is committed to lend a hand to immigrants and displaced people fleeing from Venezuela due to the communist tyranny of Nicolás Maduro, he also criticized Islamic terrorism and said that Brazil is “deeply apprehensive” about the situation in Afghanistan. For this reason, he said, the South American country will grant “humanitarian visas to Afghan Christians, women, children and judges”.
The president’s speech, serious and direct, caused the media to cry out to the skies. Especially when he said that Brazilians came out to support him in massive demonstrations against the outrages of the Brazilian Supreme Court. The press of almost the entire planet said that those protests called by Bolsonaro were “anti-democratic” because the president “attacked” the separation of powers, but they ignored that the court itself has been accused of committing abuse of power for a long time, even before the Bolsonaro administration.
A 2019 New York Times report titled “Brazil’s Judiciary, Once Symbol of Anti-Corruption Drive, Now Faces Scrutiny” reads that many Supreme Court decisions called into question its credibility to be a counterweight to the government before Jair Bolsonaro was sworn in. This fact has been systematically ignored by much of the international press, which is a serious fact of journalistic negligence.
A successful step
The press insists on highlighting Jair Bolsonaro’s visit to New York as “embarrassing.” They claim that the president gave an “anti-vaccine” speech for proposing unapproved drugs to treat COVID-19, that he made “false claims” or exaggerated achievements in his speech, or that he was simply “humiliated” for eating a slice of pizza in the street. They are wrong. The Brazilian president’s speech, beyond what the press not in favor of the conservative leader may say, was well received and carried a lot of weight in an even more important tribune.
Bolsonaro inaugurated the Assembly and showed that it is possible to carry out a successful vaccination process in a giant country without the need to impose the vaccination passport, which goes against the most basic freedoms of citizens. Similar to what is happening in Florida, which has been leaving blue states such as California or New York in a bad light for the last year. The content of the speech, moreover, was much more sensible than what was reported by the global press, it is enough to see the elements used by the president: democracy, individual liberties, defense of human rights and freedom of worship. Also free market and defense of property.
This type of summits is good for the president. Not only does it continue to strengthen key diplomatic ties —Boris Johnson, for example, said he was “delighted” to meet his Brazilian counterpart, who also met with Polish President Andrzej Duda— but it also generates counter-reactions that benefit him. The media outcry against him, from social networks to the media, does not seem to have enough factual basis to label his visit to New York as “shameful”, that foolishness or exaggeration of the international press or political enemies is precisely where Jair Bolsonaro’s success in this New York tour lies.
Emmanuel Alejandro Rondón is a journalist at El American specializing in the areas of American politics and media analysis // Emmanuel Alejandro Rondón es periodista de El American especializado en las áreas de política americana y análisis de medios de comunicación.
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