May 9, 2019 / 12:12 AM / 6 months ago

U.S. group confirms Brazil's Bolsonaro slated to speak at Texas event

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil’s right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro will speak at a foreign affairs event in Texas next week, organizers said on Wednesday, after he canceled a heavily criticized visit to New York City.

The South American leader will address business and civic leaders on May 16 at an event in Dallas hosted by the area’s branch of the World Affairs Councils of America, the branch said in a statement.

Bolsonaro canceled a visit to New York this month where he was set to be honored as person of the year by the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce, after criticism of his past racist, homophobic and anti-environment remarks.

The World Affairs Councils of America is a non-profit group that has existed in some form for roughly 100 years with more than 90 affiliates around the United States. They are non-partisan and do not take positions on policy, according to the organization’s website.

“Through events like this, we offer our members the opportunity to hear directly from individuals who hold positions of significance in the world,” Jim Falk, chief executive of the organization’s Dallas/Fort Worth council.

“We look forward to hearing from the president of the largest country in the Southern Hemisphere and the fifth-largest country in the world,” he said in a statement.

Bolsonaro’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Earlier, Bolsonaro said at an event in the Presidential Palace in Brasilia that he was finalizing plans to go to Texas, tentatively for May 16 and 17.

On Monday, Bolsonaro’s official spokesman Otavio Rego Barros said the president had been invited by Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, which his office denied.

“Mayor Mike Rawlings did not invite Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro to Dallas,” a spokesman for Rawlings said by email.

“Mayor Rawlings will welcome him to the city, as is customary for the mayor to do for democratically elected presidents of major countries,” he added.

That contrasts with New York Mayor Bill de Blasio who had openly opposed Bolsonaro’s visit to the city, where the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce was to honor him as Person of the Year.

De Blasio on Twitter praised the cancellation, saying the world must stand up to Bolsonaro’s assault on gay rights and the environment.

On Wednesday, Bolsonaro hit back, saying that de Blasio had “incited” the population against him, among the mayor’s other efforts to “sabotage” his visit.

The Brazilian leader visited the White House in March where he played up his admiration of President Donald Trump and their shared disdain for political correctness and “fake news,” as they often call unfavorable press coverage.

Reporting by Jake Spring and Lisandra Paraguassu; Editing by Leslie Adler and Darren Schuettler

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