Each year, leaders of the international business and finance community gather in the American Museum of Natural History for a black-tie gala hosted by the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce. In the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life, under the blue whale, the attendees honor two “persons of the year” — one Brazilian, one American — seen as best advancing the economic relationship between the two countries. Michael Bloomberg took home the honor last year. Next month, the Brazilian designation will be given to newly-elected far-right president Jair Bolsonaro.
The celebration of the ultra-nationalist leader, scheduled to take place on May 14th, has prompted outrage from New Yorkers and Brazilians alike. Advocates note Bolsonaro has openly embraced homophobia, misogyny, and racism, while frequently dehumanizing indigenous people as zoo animals or “chicken pox.” Within hours of taking office, he had massively rolled back environmental protections in the Amazon rainforest, and has since undertaken an aggressive campaign of deforestation and mining that native groups have likened to the apocalypse.
There is a particularly bitter irony, the advocates say, that a man intent on destroying one of the world’s most prized natural resources would be anointed Person of the Year inside a space dedicated to the celebration of the natural world.
“The fact that American Museum of Natural History would accept an event for something so counter to their own values, they should be ashamed themselves,” Priscila Neri, a Brazilian activist with the NYC-based human rights organization WITNESS, told Gothamist. “In a moment when there’s been a rise of authoritarianism around the world, they’re giving a positive nod to a man who is rolling back human rights protections and scientific knowledge.”
I’m sure the Trump administration will intervene to stop this outrage….