Netanyahu family booed after iconic Christ statue in Rio closes for their visit
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Netanyahu family booed after iconic Christ statue in Rio closes for their visit

Crowd at famous landmark said to be angered by security arrangements put in place for visit of PM, his wife and son

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his family were jeered by a crowd at Rio de Janeiro’s famous Christ the Redeemer statue on Sunday after the popular tourist site was closed to visitors so that he could visit it with his wife and son.

According to Hadashot TV news, the prime minister, who is on a several-day visit to the Latin American country, was instructed to remain in the car, but Sara and Yair Netanyahu toured the iconic landmark.

In a statement, the Prime Minister’s Office said that the visit was carried out according to security protocols.

“The security arrangements for the prime minister’s arrival caused a delay for the public to enter, so he decided to give up his visit to the site so as not to cause further delays,” the PMO said.

Netanyahu on Sunday praised the Brazilian Evangelical Christian community for its strong support of Israel, as the visiting leader of the Jewish state was dedicated a stamp marked with the word “Savior.”

“We have no better friends in the world than the Evangelical community, and the Evangelical community has no better friend in the world than the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said at an event in Rio de Janeiro.

The country’s large Evangelical population — up to one-fifth of the country, according to experts — was credited with sweeping populist President-elect Jair Bolsonaro’s to power earlier this year.

The Christ the Redeemer statue in Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro lit in blue and white to mark Israel’s 70th anniversary on May 14, 2018. (Courtesy of Israel’s honorary consulate in Rio via JTA)

“You know that President Bolsonaro’s first name in Hebrew is Yair, which is also the name of our son,” said Netanyahu. “But Yair means something in Hebrew: he who brings light. And I think that we have now an opportunity together to bring a lot of light to the people of Brazil and the people of Israel. This is an alliance of brothers.”

Earlier on Sunday, Netanyahu told Brazilian Jewish leaders that Bolsonaro had informed him that he would like to relocate the Latin American country’s mission from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

“Mr. Bolsonaro also said this: I will move the embassy to Jerusalem. It’s not a question of if, just a question of when,” Netanyahu said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left center, is received by Brazil’s President-elect Jair Bolsonaro at the military base Fort Copacabana, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, December 28, 2018. (Leo Correa/Pool Photo via AP)

The statement came after Netanyahu and Bolsonaro met on Friday, and after an Israeli government source insisted Saturday that Brazil’s embassy move to Jerusalem was merely “a matter of time.”

Bolsonaro, who takes power on Tuesday as an untested leader, has pledged a crackdown on crime and corruption and ideological opposition to the left.

He has stirred controversy in the past with statements denigrating women, gay, black and indigenous people.

The 63-year-old former paratrooper, long an obscure politician, won electoral legitimacy with a comfortable win in October, triumphing in a country left bitter and demoralized by a record recession, graft exposed at the highest levels, and a soaring murder rate.

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