Brazil official recorded calling black rights movement ‘scum’

Sérgio Camargo, who describes himself as a ‘rightwing black man’, made remark in April, according to recording

The man tasked with promoting black culture by Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, has been recorded describing the country’s black rights movement as “scum”.

Sérgio Camargo, a fervent Bolsonarista whose appointment as the head of Brazil’s Palmares Cultural Foundation last year caused outrage, made the comments at the end of April, according to a recording obtained by the Estado de São Paulo newspaper.

“The black movement, those bums from the black movement, bloody scum,” Camargo can be heard saying during a conversation about a mobile phone that had supposedly gone missing from the foundation’s headquarters.

At another point Camargo calls the anti-slavery resistance hero Zumbi a “filho da puta” (son of a bitch) and dismisses Brazil’s annual Black Consciousness Day as “a joke”, vowing to abolish funding for its events.

Flávia Oliveira, one of Brazil’s best-known black journalists, said activists were preparing legal action to push for an investigation and for Camargo’s removal.

It is truly lamentable that the debate over such an important issue ... is in the hands of someone so unfit,” Oliveira told GloboNews.

Camargo, who describes himself as a “rightwing black man”, has an ignominious track record of slurring black artists and activists.

He once called one of Brazil’s most celebrated samba composers, Martinho da Vila, a “bum” who should “be sent to the Congo” and branded the American civil rights activist Angela Davis a “minger” and “hag”.

This week, after the shooting of a 14-year-old black Brazilian teenager sparked protests, Camargo belittled the Black Lives Matter movement and their “useless” Brazilian counterparts, tweeting: “Lives matter. The colour doesn’t matter.”

Camargo also sought to burnish his credentials as a supporter of Bolsonaro’s political idol, Donald Trump, retweeting a post from the US president about the unrest there following the killing of George Floyd. “LAW & ORDER!” it said.

In a statement the Palmares foundation, which takes its name from a vast 17th-century community of runaway slaves, said it regretted the “illegal recording of an internal and private meeting”.

The foundation said it was now “in sync” with Bolsonaro’s federal government and would no longer attend the interests of only those “who proclaim themselves to be representatives of the entire black population”.

The pinned tweet of the man now responsible for nurturing Afro-Brazilian culture reads: “I owe everything to the education I received from my parents. I owe nothing to Africa. Nothing to my skin colour. Nothing to the left!”


Tom Phillips in Rio de Janeiro

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