Updated: Oct. 13, 2017 at 2:48 p.m.
The far-right Brazilian politician scheduled to speak at the Elliott School of International Affairs Friday has canceled his appearance, the event’s organizer confirmed.
Mark Langevin, the director of the school’s Brazil Initiative, which planned to host the discussion, confirmed Thursday night that Jair Bolsonaro, a Brazilian lawmaker and likely presidential candidate, backed out of the event.
Langevin said Bolsonaro’s team informed him of his decision at 4:30 p.m. Thursday hours after Langevin had passed along the list of media outlets signed up to attend the event, a list that included several major Brazilian news organizations. He declined to say why Bolsonaro’s team canceled the event, but Langevin said Bolsonaro seemed unwilling to engage in a planned dialogue with GW scholars and journalists.
“Bolsonaro is not prepared to have an open transparent democratic debate tomorrow,” he said.
The Brazil Initiative released a statement Friday saying it will continue to invite Brazilian leaders to campus to inform the community about economic, political and social issues. More than 400 people reserved tickets to Bolsonaro’s discussion, according to the statement.
The statement also included a message from Bolsonaro’s team, translated from Portuguese, saying he decided to cancel his GW appearance to “comply with all the deputy’s obligations” for his planned trip to New York, where he was scheduled to visit before the District.
“We sincerely apologize for the cancellation and are very disappointed that the federal deputy chose to avoid a public and democratic debate that was scheduled well in advance and before his travels to New York,” the initiative’s statement read.
Langevin said despite the worldwide pressure to cancel the event, the initiative was ready to continue as scheduled and even prepared for a larger audience and for Elliot School Dean Reuben Brigety to deliver opening remarks.
“We weren’t stepping back despite the pressure,” he said.
Previously, more than 870 scholars and alumni from across the globe signed an open letter demanding GW withdraw Bolsonaro’s invitation.
Langevin previously said the University should allow for an open dialogue with Bolsonaro, a former military officer who is gaining popularity with conservatives in Brazil. But many Brazilian activists and academics said GW would be providing a platform to legitimize a fringe politician who had previously attacked women, Afro-Brazilians and the LGBTQ community.
Langevin said Bolsonaro’s team began to get nervous about the event a couple of weeks ago.
“He’s really good at meeting up with his friends,” he said. “He basically hides beyond social media.”