Rock in Rio is a huge cultural event in Rio de Janeiro; for many people, it’s their one and only chance to see an artist or a band they love. The Rock in Rio stage has welcomed household names like Queen, Sting, Britney Spears, Guns ‘n’ Roses, Beyoncé and many, many more. For those who can afford the day pass, it’s a festival that is worth going to as they’ll get to see bands that don’t usually come as far as South America to tour.
Plans for the upcoming festival in 2019 have already began, but this year the political context of Brazil begs us to re-think this specific cultural event and who would benefit from it. The founder and organizer of Rock in Rio, Roberto Medina, is also the producer of campaign videos for extreme right president-elect Jair Bolsonaro. The election of Bolsonaro has resulted in widespread fear from minority groups, as the president-elect has years worth of statements that indicate he is a pro-military dictatorship hateful fascist who once said in a rally that “minority groups must adapt according to the desires of the majority.”
It’s been two weeks since extreme right-winger Jair Bolsonaro was elected as president of Brazil. While he is not yet acting president, he has already declared future actions that will endanger the civil rights of workers, appointed a military general to head the Ministry of Defense, indicated he will refuse to protect indigenous land, and his election has legitimized bigotry, resulting in a series of hate crimes across the country. Below, I will summarize what has happened in the short time since the Brazilian election, to emphasize how urgent a boycott from major international artists and bands to this event is.
The election of Bolsonaro has emboldened a movement called “School Without a Political Party,” that seeks to censor public education by making “family values a priority in teaching any aspects related to moral, sexual and religion education.” The change in legislation would forbid public school teachers of discussing any matters of gender and sexuality, effectively forbidding any sexual health education and gender equality discussions. A state representative that is a supporter of Bolsonaro, whose campaign supports this movement, even started an informal reporting system for students to tell on their teachers.
Women, ethnic minorities, LGBTQ people and people with intersecting marginalized identities are the most at risk under a Bolsonaro government. Already, a ripple of violence has gone through Brazil. A black capoeira teacher was stabbed to death after he expressed support for the leftist candidate in Salvador, Bahia. In São Paulo, a group of homophobes was heard chanting “Faggots, beware / Bolsonaro is going to kill all queers”. A female journalist was assaulted and threatened with rape in Recife, Belo Horizonte, by Bolsonaro voters. In Brasilia, a group of Bolsonaro supporters invaded a public library and destroyed five books about human rights. A black transgender woman activist and artist Aretha Sadick was threatened by a man with an iron bar in São Paulo. These are the cases that were reported in national and international media–beyond that, Brazilian communities are dealing with less tangible interpersonal violence and censorship that is inspired by the election of a fascist.
International artists and bands cannot be complicit with the growing forces of fascism in Brazil. The involvement of Roberto Medina, the creator and organizer of Rock in Rio, in Bolsonaro’s campaign is undeniable. The #EleNão (#NotHim) campaign during the Brazilian election received a lot of support from bands and artists outside of Brazil. The bands Black Eyed Peas and Imagine Dragons expressed their support for the anti-fascist campaign, but they have been confirmed as performers in Rock in Rio 2019. Other bands and artists that have been confirmed and should back out of the festival are Nickelback, Muse, Iron Maiden, Scorpions, Megadeth, P!nk, Anitta and Sepultura. A material boycott of this festival is necessary as disrupting the profits and success of those who will benefit from fascism is the only power international bands and artists hold in Brazil. The #EleNão campaign continues, and more than posting on social media is urgent and necessary right now.
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