Plans to honor Brazil’s far-right president with a black-tie gala at the American Museum of Natural History have been scrapped after a public outcry that saw New York’s mayor brand Jair Bolsonaro “a very dangerous human being”.
Bill deBlasio was among those to speak out after plans for the 14 May event emerged last week, claiming Bolsonaro’s “overt racism and homophobia” and his hostility to the environment mean it would be wrong for such a museum to host him.
Museum staff and scientists in both the United States and Brazil also blasted the decision to pay tribute to a right-wing populist who critics fear is leading the South American country into a new era of Amazon destruction with profound implications for Brazil’s indigenous people and the battle against climate change.
The museum responded to that criticism last week, claiming it was “deeply concerned” about an event which did not “in any way reflect the Museum’s position that there is an urgent need to conserve the Amazon Rainforest”.
On Monday afternoon the museum announced the gala would no longer go ahead there after a joint agreement with organizers from the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce that it was “not the optimal location”.
“This traditional event will go forward at another location on the original date & time,” the museum added in a tweet.
Brazil has long been hailed as a global leader in soft power and, in recent years, has also emerged as a respected player in the fight against climate change.
But under Bolsonaro – who won a landslide victory at home last year but is regarded with widespread disdain overseas – that looks set to change dramatically, with many regarding Brazil’s radical new leader as a pariah.
Bolsonaro’s critics celebrated the decision not to hold the gala at the museum, which made immediate headlines in Brazil. One read: “Bolsonaro is banned from New York museum.”
“Thank you!” the campaigning group, Amazon Watch, tweeted at the national history museum. “We must come together to denounce Bolsonaro’s bigotry, racism and plans for the destruction of the Amazon and violations of indigenous rights!”
In a reference to Bolsonaro’s notoriously antediluvian attitudes, the Brazilian feminist Sâmia Bomfimpraised a “wise decision from those who specialize in jurassic creatures”.
There was no immediate response from Bolsonaro, whose popularity ratings have plummeted since he took power on 1 January.
But a key foreign policy adviser, Filipe Martins, offered the Bolsonarista take on the museum controversy on Saturday. New York mayor deBlasio was, he said, a “toupeira” – a mole.