BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) – Brazil’s elections are just two weeks away, but President Jair Bolsonaro has decided to halt his campaign and leave the country on a four-day international trip.
The right-wing leader came to London to attend the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II on Monday and planned to open the session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York the following day.
Allies hope Bolsonaro’s trip will sway some voters, give him gravitas after nearly four years of rifts with other world leaders and provide material for TV commercials.
Bolsonaro trails former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in the polls, with the other candidates far behind. The leftist da Silva, who ruled from 2003 to 2010, hopes to win 50% of the votes on October 2 and avoid a runoff against the incumbent.
Bolsonaro announced three days of national mourning in Brazil following the death of the 96-year-old British monarch and the funeral will be Bolsonaro’s first official visit to the United Kingdom. He met the new monarch, King Charles III, during a trip to Japan in 2019.
At the time, Bolsonaro described Charles, an ardent environmentalist, as “someone who, like the rest of the world, is wrong about the Amazon.” Environmentalists often accuse the Bolsonaro administration of not working to stop deforestation in the Amazon region and ignoring environmental crimes there.
After the funeral, Bolsonaro was to travel to New York to maintain the tradition of Brazilian presidents being the first to speak at the assembly.
According to Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bolsonaro’s New York speech is likely to have an electoral approach as well as elements suggested by Brazil’s diplomatic staff.
“He is a head of state and government, but he is also a candidate for re-election. This separation is necessary, but not always perfect”, said Paulino Neto, ambassador of the United Nations in Brazil.
Bolsonaro himself made clear the links between the election and his quest abroad while speaking at a campaign rally on Friday in the southern state of Parana.
He told supporters that he should pay homage to Queen Elizabeth to represent Brazil. “And every day, Brazil interacts and integrates with other countries around the world. Brazil is a great country, everyone wants to do business with us,” he said.
Oliver Stuenkel, professor of foreign affairs at the Getulio Vargas Foundation in São Paulo, said Bolsonaro wants to show voters that he is not isolated from international leaders. And he said that Bolsonaro’s conservative base, including monarchists, will be happy to see him at the royal funeral.
“What Bolsonaro needs is … to show that he can ensure some stability and predictability in terms of values, and respond to the criticism that he is isolated from the world,” a Stuenkel said. “And New York will give him a world stage. It will get headlines for the next few days.”
____ Savarese reported from São Paulo.