June 11, 2012
Brazilian Jewish leaders ask President Rousseff not to meet with Ahmadinejad
Representatives of Brazil’s Jewish communities urged the country’s president, Dilma Rousseff, not to meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during his visit to Brazil.
Ahmadinejad is expected in Brazil next week for Rio +20, a United Nations summit on sustainable development that opens June 20.
A delegation of members from the umbrella organization of Brazil’s Jewish communities, Confederação Israelita do Brasil, or CONIB, stated their request during a meeting last week with the country’s foreign minister, Antonio Patriota.
“Ahmadinejad is arriving to Brazil at the invitation of the U.N., not the Brazilian government,” said Ricardo Berkiensztat, executive vice president of the Sao Paolo Jewish community. He added the Iranian Foreign Ministry has asked for a meeting with Rousseff, but no such meeting has been scheduled. Berkiensztat said he did not believe such a meeting would take place.
In explaining their objections, the members of the Jewish delegation cited fears that Iran’s nuclear program is military in nature and recalled Ahmadinejad’s repeated denials of the Holocaust, as well as Iranian persecution of minorities and critics of the regime.
CONIB and other Jewish organizations are planning protest rallies against Ahmadinejad’s arrival in several cities across Brazil for June 17.
Walter Feldman, a Brazilian congressman, warned his fellow lawmakers last week that Ahmadinejad was a “danger to Brazil and South America” and urged the Brazilian government to deny him entry.
Brazil’s former president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who belongs to Rousseff’s party, hosted Ahmadinejad in 2009 in Brazil and visited Tehran the next year, when he brokered a deal to allow Iran to enrich uranium in Turkey.