Bolsonaro defends unproven Covid treatments in UNGA address

unga Jair Messias Bolsonaro, addresses the UN General Assembly. Photo: Cia Pak/UN Photo
Jair Messias Bolsonaro, addresses the UN General Assembly. Photo: Cia Pak/UN Photo

Opening the 2021 United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) this morning, Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro used his speech to tout so-called “early treatment against Covid-19,” consisting of a drug cocktail including antimalarial drug chloroquine, which experts have widely debunked as ineffective and potentially dangerous

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have supported doctors’ autonomy in pursuing early treatment. (…) We don’t understand why so many countries, along with a large part of the media, positioned themselves against early treatment. History and science will judge us all.”

Despite calls from diplomats for Mr. Bolsonaro to adopt a moderate tone in his opening speech, the president chose to sing from his usual hymn sheet. The head of state kicked off his remarks declaring he is a “god-fearing president” who rid Brazil of corruption and saved the country “from the brink of socialism.”

Indeed, much of his statements were inaccurate, considering that the Federal Police are currently investigating his House whip Ricardo Barros — believed to be at the center of a graft scheme related to vaccine purchases — and that previous left-leaning governments were moderate and reasonably market-friendly, hardly providing a “threat” of socialism.

Elsewhere in his speech, he blamed Brazil’s soaring inflation on the actions of state governors and municipal mayors, who chose to adopt tight restrictions on movement and commerce during the height of the pandemic — measures to which Mr. Bolsonaro has always been opposed.

As will be the case with many of today’s UNGA speeches, Mr. Bolsonaro devoted some time to the environment, with COP26 on the horizon in Glasgow. The president claimed Brazil has bolder environmental policies than anywhere else in the world, calling the country’s agribusiness “sustainable.” In a meeting with British PM Boris Johnson yesterday, however, Mr. Johnson called Brazil out on its environmental targets, saying they aren’t good enough.

President Bolsonaro dug his heels in on climate financing, calling upon developed countries to send resources for developing countries to tackle climate change. Brazil is one of the main obstacles to the conclusion of the Paris Agreement’s carbon markets article.