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New Brazilian Leader Promises to Rethink Zionism-racism Vote

January 29, 1990
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The president-elect of Brazil said here last week that Brazil’s vote in 1975 supporting the “Zionism is racism” vote at the United Nations was “a mistake” and that he would review it when he returned to Brazil.

Fernando Collor de Mello, who last month was chosen as Brazil’s first popularly elected president in 25 years, told Edgar Bronfman, the president of the World Jewish Congress, that “Brazil made a mistake” in 1975 and will not vote that way again, Bronfman said.

Collor, who will be sworn in on March 15, met with Bronfman for a half-hour Thursday at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, along with WJC Secretary-General Israel Singer and Executive Director Elan Steinberg.

The Brazilian president-elect was in the United States to meet with President Bush. They were to discuss Brazil’s sinking economy and staggering world debt, among other issues.

Collor, a center-right candidate, appealed to the poor in his two presidential runs — the first in November, along with 20 other candidates, and then the Dec. 17 runoff against Luis Inacio da Silva, a trade unionist who had Marxist support.

Collor agreed to meet with the WJC at the behest of the president of the Confederation of Brazilian Jews, Benno Milnitzky, and Rabbi Henry Sobel of the Congregacao Israelita Paulista, both of whom were also present at the meeting.

The issue of the Palestine Liberation Organization was not discussed, said Steinberg.

Sobel said Collor and the Jewish community “have the same agenda.” He said Collor’s statement about the U.N. vote was a reiteration of his declaration during the campaign that he intended to “re-examine this question.”

“We focused on the resolution of equating Zionism with racism, and we were pleased to get a very definitive answer,” said Steinberg.

Both Milnitzky and Sobel concurred there is no real current problem of anti-Semitism in Brazil, “but there is a possibility there could be,” said Milnitzky, who has for the last two years also been president of the Latin American Jewish Congress.

Milnitzky said the danger to Jews in Brazil stems more from a lack of identification with Judaism than from anti-Semitism. That could only be remedied by a stronger belief system, he said.

Milnitzky said there is no doubt that Collor is against anti-Semitism. Collor even claims a distant Jewish ancestor.

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