Facing Resounding Criticism, American Natural History Museum Cancels Gala Dinner for Jair Bolsonaro

resident Trump Holds Joint Press Conference With Brazilian President Bolsonaro
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 19: (AFP OUT) Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro attends a joint news conference with U.S. President Donald Trump in the Rose Garden at the White House March 19, 2019 in Washington, DC. President Trump is hosting President Bolsonaro for a visit and bilateral talks at the White House today. (Photo by Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images)

New York City’s American Museum of Natural History has cancelled a gala that next month was set to honor Jair Bolsonaro, the divisive, proto-fascist, rainforest-hating President of Brazil. The choice of venue is at best ironic and at worst completely offensive considering Bolsonaro’s commitment to deforest and develop the Amazon into something “more productive” than the most incredible and significant rainforest and carbon sink on the planet. It also happens to be home to over one million indigenous people, some of whom have never had contact with the world outside of the forest.

Also known as “Trump of the Tropics,” Bolsonaro would have been named Person of the Year at a gala dinner organized by the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce who decided to recognize the president for “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.” Bolsonaro visited the U.S. last month in trade talks that failed to get Brazil much of anything, though the Brazilian president demonstrated how willing he is at this stage to bend over backwards for Trump; needless to say, his approval ratings have plummeted since the beginning of the year and are some of the lowest of any Brazilian president in recent history.

The ANHM had no idea that Bolsonaro was to be the gala’s guest of honor when the event was booked, but responded quickly to protests last week. Bolsonaro’s critics are environmental and human rights activists, as well as just regular human beings who find his rhetoric and policies obviously offensive. Museum staff issued an open letter decrying the event, citing Bolsonaro’s anti-environmental, bigoted record. “[Hosting] an event to honor a president who is so openly hostile to indigenous, black, women’s, and LGBTQIA causes is a stain on the Museum’s reputation which negates the nominal efforts it has recently made to grapple with its legacy of colonial violence and racism.”

On Monday, the ANHM announced in a statement that, together with the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce, they had concluded that “the museum is not the optimal location” for such an event. New York City mayor Bill de Blasio unapologetically tweeted in support of the decision yesterday morning. “Jair Bolsonaro is a dangerous man,” he wrote. “His overt racism, homophobia and destructive decisions will have a devastating impact on the future of our planet.” The event will be taking place as scheduled at a different venue in the city.