Brazil's Bolsonaro vetoes second culture funding bill

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Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has twice vetoed measures that would boost assistance to artists and cultural programs in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, leading critics to brand the far-right leader an "enemy of culture" (AFP/EVARISTO SA) (EVARISTO SA)

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro vetoed a bill Thursday that would grant $600 million in aid to artists and cultural programs reeling from the coronavirus pandemic, the second such legislation he has blocked in a month.

The administration said the latest measure was "against the public interest," and that both bills had failed to properly source funding to cover their budgets.

Critics accused the far-right president of waging a "war on culture."

The latest legislation was dubbed the Aldir Blanc Bill, for a noted Brazilian composer who died of Covid-19 in 2020.

Like the previous bill -- also named for a famous Brazilian who died of Covid, the actor and comedian Paulo Gustavo -- it aimed to assist a cultural sector still suffering from the impact of pandemic shut-downs.

Passed in March, the Blanc Bill would have extended Covid-19 emergency funds for cultural projects, allocating three billion reais ($600 million) annually to state and local governments for five years starting in 2023.

"This is another episode in Bolsonaro's war on culture," Mariana Conti, a candidate for governor of Sao Paulo for the left-wing Socialism and Liberty Party (PSOL), wrote on Twitter.

"The arguments for his veto are unfounded," tweeted opposition Senator Jandira Feghali, one of the bill's sponsors, calling the president "an enemy of culture."

Bolsonaro, who comes up for reelection in October, has often been accused of attacking culture and the arts.

He downgraded Brazil's culture ministry to a secretariat on taking office in 2019, and his administration has faced repeated allegations of using its control over federal funding for the arts to try to censor projects it sees as ideologically threatening.

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