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Gala Honoring Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro Finds A Home At Times Square Marriott

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro
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Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro Andre Penner/AP/Shutterstock

A controversial gala honoring Brazil's far-right president Jair Bolsonaro will come to Times Square next month, after the event's organizers were rebuffed by the American Museum of Natural History and at least one other venue.

A rep for the Marriott Marquis confirmed to Gothamist that the annual fundraiser, hosted by the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce, will take place inside the hotel's 45th Street ballroom on May 14th. The business group intends to recognize Bolsonaro with the Brazilian "Man of the Year" award, and to give the American designation to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Last week, the American Museum of Natural History—which has hosted the dinner for years—backed out of the event following threats of protests and boycotts from museum staff and the public. Several AMNH employee argued that the museum should not be profiting from a celebration of the newly-elected Brazilian leader, whose time in office has been marked an assault on Amazon rainforest protections and dehumanization of marginalized communities.

Just this week, thousands of indigenous people from across Brazil gathered to protest Bolsonaro's "anti-indigenous" policies, and to call attention to the skyrocketing deforestation rate since he took office. On a recent White House visit, Bolsonaro—who has repeatedly referred to indigenous people as zoo animals and chicken pox—says he spoke with President Donald Trump about a plan to jointly develop parts of the Amazon.

“This guy’s a very dangerous human being," Mayor Bill de Blasio told WNYC's Brian Lehrer earlier this month. "He’s dangerous not just because of his overt racism and homophobia, but because he is unfortunately the person with the most ability to be able to impact what happens in the Amazon going forward."

Following the museum's cancellation, the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce was also rebuffed by Ciprani Hall on Wall Street, the Rio Times reports.

Presently, the business group's website does not mention a location for the event, but promises it will take place at an "upscale venue to be announced soon." Listed sponsors include Bain & Company, J.P. Morgan., and Forbes.

A spokesperson for the Marriott declined to answers questions about whether the hotel had misgivings about hosting the gala, and directed our questions to the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce. The group has not responded to multiple inquiries.

Priscila Neri, a Brazilian activist with the NYC-based human rights organization WITNESS, told Gothamist that the chamber's decision to honor Bolsonaro was "embarrassing and appalling," though not surprising. "That group exists to advance the economic interest of a tiny minority of rich people in Brazil and the United States," she said. "So, no, they don't care how his policies impact anyone else."

Indeed, the organization's president and board chairman, Alexander Bettamio, was one of Bolsonaro's choices to run Brazil's state-run bank, and currently serves as the head of the Latin American division of Bank of America. The chamber's executive director, Ted Helms, is a former investment manager at the Brazilian oil company Petrobras, which struck a $9 billion deal with Bolsonaro's government earlier this month.

The $30,000 tickets for the event have sold out, and roughly 1,000 guests are expected to attend. It's unclear whether Bolsonaro or Pompeo will be among them.

Additional reporting by Paula Moura.

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