U.S. science museum 'concerned' by event to honor Brazil's Bolsonaro

by Reuters
Friday, 12 April 2019 14:15 GMT

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro, reacts during a ceremony marking his first 100 days in office at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, April 11, 2019. REUTERS/Adriano Machado

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By Jake Spring

BRASILIA, April 12 (Reuters) - The American Museum of Natural History said on Friday that it is "concerned" an event booked to be held at the New York museum will honor far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro as a "person of the year," a move that has triggered online outrage.

The Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce is holding its annual Person of the Year gala at the museum on May 14, during which it will give the award to Bolsonaro, according to the chamber's website. The award is typically given to one Brazilian and one American each year, although this year's American recipient is not listed.

Bolsonaro, who styled his campaign for office last year after that of U.S. President Donald Trump, has considered pulling out of the Paris Agreement on climate change and railed against what he sees as indiscriminate fines for environmental crimes. He continues to support mining and other development in the Amazon rainforest region, considered by most scientists as the world's biggest natural defense against climate change.

"The external, private event at which the current President of Brazil is to be honored was booked at the Museum before the honoree was secured," the museum said on its official Twitter account. "We are deeply concerned, and we are exploring our options."

Bolsonaro's office and the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The responses to the museum's tweet included hundreds of messages urging that the event be canceled, with people identifying themselves as activists and scholars saying it was inappropriate that Bolsonaro be honored at an institution of science because of his views.

"It certainly is cause for outrage," Philip Fearnside, an American professor at Brazil's National Institute of Amazonian Research and one of the most cited experts on the jungle, said in a telephone interview.

"He denies the existence of anthropogenic climate change and he's appointed several other denialists to his Cabinet," Fearnside said. "And he is also dismantling the environmental protections in Brazil ... so obviously it's not something to be celebrated by science." (Reporting by Jake Spring; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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