Brazil’s authoritarian President Jair Bolsonaro is among the world’s controversial leaders paying their respects to the Queen at Westminster Abbey today.
The far-right ruler, who has been accused of homophobia and misogyny and downplayed Covid as “a bit cold”, joined several figures in London today who preside over countries with dubious human rights records.
While a number of countries were barred from worship due to strained diplomatic relations with Britain, representatives from Saudi Arabia, China, Brunei, Bahrain and Kuwait were spotted at the gathering.
Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman, China’s Xi Jinping and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan were invited, but each chose to send dignitaries on their behalf amid a possible backlash over their presence.
Prince Turki bin Mohammed al Saud is instead representing Saudi Arabia, a country that supports stoning and oversaw the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi after bin Salman delegated his invitation.
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro and his wife Michelle arrive at Westminster Abbey in London today
Wang Qishan, China’s Vice President, arrives at Westminster Abbey today in place of Xi Jinping
Saudi Prince Turki bin Mohammed al Saud, who replaced Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is pictured at the funeral
A source said the change was made by Saudi Arabia, Reuters reported.
This comes after human rights groups criticized the decision to invite the crown prince.
Hatice Cengiz, Mr Khashoggi’s fiancee, had also condemned the controversial invitation.
She said his presence at Her Majesty’s state funeral would “stain her memory” – a sentiment echoed by activists who say the attendance of Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, known as MBS, seeks to improve its human rights record “to embellish”.
China’s Vice Premier Wang Qishan attended the funeral hours after sparking anger among conservative lawmakers for seeing the queen lying in state.
The representative wore a Chinese-brand face mask throughout the service.
Senior MPs had complained that Beijing was being “appeased” by allowing it to visit and see the Queen in state, even as a number of British politicians have been sanctioned for criticizing human rights abuses.
However, the Speaker of the House of Commons Sir Lindsay Hoyle has denied he was “leaned” to allow officers access.
Representatives from countries with criticized human rights records, including Brunei, Kuwait and Bahrain, attended the funeral today
China’s Vice Premier Wang Qishan attended the funeral hours after sparking anger among conservative lawmakers for seeing the queen lying in state
Originally, it had been expected that Chinese officials would be barred from Westminster, while seven British MPs and colleagues would continue to be sanctioned by Beijing.
The ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, who was embroiled in a bitter legal battle in Britain with his ex-wife Princess Haya, whom he was ordered to pay a record £500 million settlement for, was also present today.
The Sheikh has been accused of kidnapping his two daughters, Shamsa and Latifa, who have been missing for months amid allegations that she is being held against her will.
His former brother-in-law, King Abdullah of Jordan, is also among the huge crowd of mourners, making for a potentially awkward reunion today.
Due to strained relations, the UK has opted to invite ambassadors, not heads of state, from several countries including Iran, Nicaragua and North Korea.
Russia and Belarus are among a small group of nations excluded altogether after Moscow invaded Ukraine.
Dozens of world leaders, dignitaries and diplomats take their places at Westminster Abbey for the start of the Queen’s funeral
Russian President Vladimir Putin – who is banned from traveling to the UK due to sanctions – had previously said he would not be attending.
But not inviting a Russian representative to the Queen’s funeral was “particularly blasphemous towards the memory of Elizabeth II” and “deeply immoral,” the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said in Moscow on Thursday.
Russia and Belarus have embassies in London, and their presidents sent King Charles III. messages of condolences.
Other countries without invitations include Myanmar, Syria, Venezuela and Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.
Yesterday, Bolsonaro was criticized by opposition leaders for making his trip to London a campaign event.
His participation comes just two weeks before the first-round vote in which he lags behind his left-wing rival, former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in opinion polls.
Addressing his yellow-and-green-clad supporters from the balcony of the Brazilian embassy, far-right former army captain Bolsonaro briefly touched on the Queen’s legacy before accusing the opposition of trying to establish communism in South America’s largest country.
“We are a country that doesn’t want drug liberalization, that doesn’t want to talk about legalizing abortion and that doesn’t accept ‘gender ideology,'” Bolsonaro said.
Reuters reported this week that Bolsonaro’s campaign hoped to use his trip to project the image of a respectable statesman with international support.
The president has been largely shunned by Western leaders for his lackluster stewardship of the Amazon rainforest and his closeness to Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.