Music icon Caetano Veloso urges Brazil to stop Bolsonaro

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Brasília (AFP) – Singer-songwriter Caetano Veloso, a living legend of Brazilian music, was imprisoned and exiled by his country’s military dictatorship in the 1960s.

President Jair Bolsonaro’s government is doing even worse things, he said on Wednesday as he led a protest against his environmental policies.

Veloso, 79, led a rally that drew thousands to the seat of power in Brasilia to condemn moves by the far-right president to pass a series of bills that activists say would accelerate the increasing destruction of the Amazon rainforest, with catastrophic consequences in Brazil. and beyond.

Between hand-delivering a damning letter to the Senate leader and headlining a star-studded concert in front of Congress, the veteran musician spoke to AFP about his call for Brazilians to flood the streets.

Lively and passionate, wearing a floral-print shirt that evoked his founding days of the pioneering “Tropicalia” movement, Veloso explained why he vehemently opposes Brazil’s leadership under Bolsonaro, who is up for re-election in October.

Q: You are a longtime critic of Bolsonaro’s environmental policies. What made you decide it was time to call a protest?

A: “Some of these bills have already passed through the lower house and are heading to the Senate. We were looking for a good moment to react. We managed to bring together musicians and all the movements and organizations fighting for the environment.

“It’s important that artists and other personalities make their voices heard, because people know us. And as I said in my speech to the Senate, artists intrinsically identify with the environmental cause. We have a spiritual responsibility to nature as creators. good when we can use our platform to amplify the problem.”

Brazilian musician Caetano Veloso performs during a protest against President Jair Bolsonaro’s environmental policies outside the Congress building in Brasilia, March 9, 2022 Sergio LimaAFP

Q: Ahead of the 2018 run-off election that brought Bolsonaro to power, you warned he would bring a wave of “terror and hatred”. Would you say it happened?

A: “What is happening in Brazil is horrible. I lived under the military dictatorship (1964-1985), I was imprisoned, I was exiled. But today, in our democracy, the federal government supports even grosser things. worst aspects of the dictatorship, like notorious torturers, like the president did, but other things. There is a feeling of political violence in Brazilian life. And Brazilians must respond, for their mental, spiritual and physical health.

“There is room for optimism (as the election approaches), but there is a lot of fear. Because this stuff (the pro-Bolsonaro movement) is scary. Bannon (former adviser to former US President Donald Trump), to Hungary (led by fellow far-right leader Viktor Orban).

“Bolsonaro could lose, but what he represents won’t go away so easily. I am, however, pragmatically optimistic. Optimism is possible. And necessary.”

Q: Why such a strong reaction against these bills?

A: “There is a clear plan to remove environmental protections in any way possible. These bills are unnatural. They are deadly, in many cases, especially for Indigenous peoples.

People attend Brazilian musician Caetano Veloso's performance in defense of the environment in Brasilia, March 9, 2022.
People attend Brazilian musician Caetano Veloso’s performance in defense of the environment in Brasilia, March 9, 2022. Sergio LimaAFP

“The Mining Bill (to legalize mining on indigenous reservations), for example, will victimize indigenous peoples in the most egregious way.

“It’s a kind of violence that reflects very badly on the West, on the growth of the world economy today.

“Other things in Brazil are also being systematically destroyed, including cultural life and various other things. But on the environment, it’s an affront to all of us.”

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