Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro kicked off what Politico dubbed “Dictator Day” at the United Nations General Assembly with a speech that was denounced by indigenous leaders from Brazil before it even took place. In his remarks, the recently elected right-wing leader thanked President Trump for his support and decried the global alarm about wildfires that ravaged the Amazon rainforest, claiming that concern for the world’s largest rainforest was misplaced and even “colonialist.”
“It is a fallacy to say that the Amazon is the heritage of humankind and a misconception confirmed by scientists to say that our Amazon forests are the lungs of the world,” he said, according to the BBC.
“Using and resorting to these fallacies, certain countries, instead of helping . . . behaved in a disrespectful manner and with a colonialist spirit,” Bolsonaro said. “They even called into question that which we hold as a most sacred value, our sovereignty.”
Taking a page from the new playbook of the far right, he also cried fake news over reports of the Amazon’s devastation, claiming that “the Amazon is not being devastated nor is it being consumed by fire, as the media is falsely portraying.”
The BBC reports that more than 80,000 fires have broken out in the Amazon rainforest so far this year, and deforestation has soared, earning Bolsonaro the title of “Captain Chainsaw,” as forest is cleared for farming, mining, logging, and ranching. Based on Bolsonaro’s speech, it seems that no one outside of Brazil is allowed to care.
The feeling between Bolsonaro and the UN may be mutual. According to Reuters, the current UN’s high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, told Chilean national television that she “feel[s] sorry for Brazil” under Bolsanaro, noting “the number of people who have been killed and the difficulty for civil society to continue doing the things they were doing before.”