Congressman Valmir Assunção is called “monkey” and “big nose” in racist audio after defending installation of ICUs in Itamaraju, Bahia
By Marques Travae
Just in case any of you might have thought that racism would take a break like so many thousands of businesses being forced to due to precautionary measures to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, guess again. Even in times of emergency, racist behavior, thoughts and comments continue their offenses against stigmatized groups.
In this latest episode, in the state of Bahia, Afro-Brazilian federal congressman Valmir Assunção (PT-BA) was victimized by racism, defamation and offense to a public figure on Friday, April 10. In an audio recorded by a merchant from the municipality of Itamaraju, Bahia, a supporter of President Jair Bolsonaro, the parliamentarian from the city Itamaraju, located in the extreme south of the state, was referred to as “monkey“, “ridiculous”, “horrible”, “vagabond” and “big nose”, terms known to be used as racist offenses. The voice of the insults and demeaning comments belonged to the merchant Jaqueline Oliveira via a WhatsApp group.
Further defaming the politician, Oliveira also claimed in the audio that Assunção “only brought two motels to the city” using “oranges” and, in her opinion, didn’t bring any other benefit to the city. “Point out something to me that this macaco (monkey) has brought to Itamaraju”, the merchant states in the audio message that circulated in video format and shared in WhatsApp groups that ended up going viral.
The reason for these attacks on the congressman came after Assunção released a video on his own social networks in which he supported the proposal of Bahia Governor Rui Costa (PT) to install 20 ICU beds (Intensive Care Unit) in order to provide care for patients infected by COVID-19 in Itamaraju. According to the merchant’s views heard in the audio messages, this would be responsible for “taking the Coronavirus” to the city.
Also taking a position against the ICU beds is the current mayor of Itamaraju, Marcelo Angênica (PSDB). Assunção who repudiated the racist comments made by the merchant and immediately called the Bahia State Public Security Secretariat (SSP-BA) to look into the incident. The PT (Workers’ Party) congressman considered the situation to be serious and that said he would let these offenses slide.
“I can’t refrain from reporting this, as I know that the country still has racist and uninformed people in its society. The fact that I am black is a source of pride. The ignorance of people in the face of this historical process only makes political action in Itamaraju and in other regions of Bahia and Brazil difficult. I will take this to the end so that this person is properly punished within the law,” Assunção stated.
What must be pointed out here is the ongoing conflict between supporters of Brazil’s ultra-right-wing President, Jair Bolsonaro, who currently has no political party, and the PT, or Workers’ Party, which was in power between the years 2002 and 2016. Supporters of Brazil’s rightward leaning parties have long deemed the Workers’ Party as Communist, leftist extremist who have destroyed the country. President Bolsonaro has drawn strong criticism from leaders and health specialist around the world for his downplaying and handling of the pandemic.
During the period of PT control, under President Lula da Silva and his successor, President Dilma Rousseff, poor and black Brazilians experienced more social ascension than any other period in the nation’s history and the resentment of Brazil’s elites and middle classes has been thoroughly documented in subsequent years. The anti-PT movement would lead to the impeachment and removal of Rousseff in the middle of her second term and the imprisonment of Lula da Silva.
The Bahian congressman will appeal to Law No. 7.716/89 as the basis for his complaint. This law defines prejudice of race or color as a crime in which the penalty is up to five years in prison. “I lament that this still happens in our society. But we can’t let that go. We cannot be accomplices to crimes like this. Even more so in such a delicate moment in which we are living,” said Valmir.
“To be contrary to everything that the federal, state and global health agencies preach is one thing, but placing supporters of municipal management to commit racism goes beyond the limit of reasonability. We are not going to bow our heads, we are going to defend the lives, especially of the poor people, at this moment,” added the deputy.
With information from Jornalistas Livres