A president on an official visit abroad who, casually and in shirt sleeves, offers himself a pizza-coca that he swallows on the sidewalk: the image is unusual and rather nice. But it is not by refusal of convenience that the Brazilian head of state, Jair Bolsonaro, and his delegation dined standing and outdoors on Sunday in New York. Arrived in the United States to deliver a speech on Tuesday at the United Nations General Assembly, the Brazilian president could not be admitted to any restaurant for lack of a health pass proving that he is vaccinated.
The former soldier still refuses to be inoculated, claiming that the exceptional quality of his immune system exempts him. Affected by the coronavirus and hospitalized in July 2020, he even proclaimed that he would be “The last Brazilian” to be administered an anti-Covid vaccine. Its disastrous management of the pandemic, whose seriousness he has long denied, also earned him the opening of an impeachment procedure. With more than 600,000 deaths, Brazil is one of the countries in the world most affected by the virus.
The image of the dinner on the go was disseminated on social networks not by paparazzi but by the members of the Brazilian delegation themselves: the Minister of the Secretariat of the Presidency, Luiz Eduardo Ramos, or the Minister of Tourism, Gilson. Machado. Both praised the relaxed and unfussy character of the far-right president, without providing an explanation for the scene. On the Uol news site, columnist Reinaldo Azevedo deciphered: “Bolsonaro likes to play humility […] but it’s not a matter of taste, it’s New York law that prohibits him from going to local restaurants. ”
The stubborn refusal of the vaccine has cast doubt on Bolsonaro’s participation in the UN Annual Assembly. New York City Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi had pointed out that the United Nations headquarters was “A convention center” subject to health regulations for closed spaces, therefore accessible only to holders of an up-to-date health pass. But after several days of hesitation, the president of the General Assembly, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Maldives, Abdulla Shahid, specified to the delegates of the member states that they would be admitted with a simple declaration of honor not to be carriers of the virus (thanks to a vaccination, a negative test or an absence of symptoms).
The mayor of the town, Bill De Blasio, himself recalled the obligation to present the “Key to NYC Pass” for any activity in a closed place. And addressed himself directly to the UN vaccine-skeptic delegates, “Including the Brazilian Bolsonaro” : “If you don’t want to be vaccinated, save yourself the trip”, he had warned. In vain, obviously.
Arrived in New York on Sunday evening, the head of state had, according to Brazilian media, to use the back door to enter his hotel in order to avoid demonstrators waiting for him in front of the main entrance shouting «Dehors Bolsonaro !»