Brasilia, Mar 9 (EFE).- Acclaimed Brazilian singer-songwriter Caetano Veloso headed a large demonstration here Wednesday that blasted President Jair Bolsonaro for his environmental policies and demanded that he cease the “destruction of the Amazon and Brazil.”
The rally occurred outside the National Congress of Brazil in Brasilia and mainly took aim at a bill backed by the conservative head of state and pushed by Brazil’s powerful farm lobby that would loosen regulations on the use of pesticides.
The protesters’ ire also was directed at other proposed legislation that would boost mining in the Amazon, reduce the size of indigenous reserves, further scale back environmental oversight and, all told, amount to a “destruction package.”
Major figures in Brazilian music took part in the demonstration, including singer-songwriters Daniela Mercury and Maria Gadu, samba star Seu Jorge and hip-hop artists Emicida and Criolo.
Environmental groups such as Greenpeace, leftist lawmakers, and indigenous and peasant movements and other social collectives also participated.
Veloso, who will turn 80 in August and was the driving force behind the event, led a group of artists and activists who met with Senate President Rodrigo Pacheco and delivered a letter demanding an end to the destruction of the Amazon and Brazil’s other biomes.
The Grammy Award-winning artist cited as evidence the rampant Amazon deforestation since Bolsonaro took office in 2019, the increase in violence against indigenous communities and the devastating rains that have caused severe flooding in recent months in different parts of Brazil.
“The people are still mourning their dead,” Veloso said of the flash floods and mudslides that left at least 232 dead last month in the southeastern city of Petropolis.
“Those aren’t scenes from a distant future. That’s happening now,” he said, adding that the Senate has the power and duty to prevent the passage of bills that “will further compromise our future.”
Mercury warned of the impact the government-backed bills would have on vulnerable populations in the Amazon region and other Brazilian biomes and said if politicians do not stop them “the people are going to change all that.”
The gathering was “one of the most beautiful civil society demonstrations that this parliament has seen,” Pacheco said, providing assurances that space will be provided for a democratic and balanced debate on the bills in question and that the opinions of all Brazilians will be taken into account.
Toward the end of the demonstration, Veloso asked the crowd to sing along with him to the refrain of “Terra,” one of his most beloved songs: “Terra! Terra! Por mais distante o errante navegante, quem jamais te esqueceria?” (Earth! Earth! However distant the wandering navigator, who could ever forget you?”
Veloso composed that track in 1969 from a prison cell after seeing the American astronauts’ first photos of Earth from the Moon.
Hundreds of people later continued to sing that refrain outside the doors of the parliament building along with chants of “Fuera Bolsonaro” (Go Away Bolsonaro!), a reference to this October’s presidential election in which the rightist candidate is expected to lose by a big margin to center-left former head of state Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.