There was no commemorative procession through the streets of the village that gave birth to Jair Messias Bolsonaro’s great-grandfather Vittorio, who emigrated to South America in 1888. The president of Brazil decided at the last moment not to attend the ceremony granting him honorary citizenship, scheduled at the headquarters of the Municipality of Anguillara Veneta, to avoid passing through streets filled with protesters ready to shout him down.
Already at 10 a.m., despite the cold and the pouring rain in a region on yellow alert, at least 200 demonstrators had gathered in Piazza De Gasperi to wait for the unwelcome guest. There were flags from Europa Verde, Cgil, Rifondazione, Anpi, and also many Sem Terra flags and Brazilian flags, waved by migrants from the South American country. Behind a large banner with the inscription “Bolsonaro, shame of the Veneto”—a twist on the message of the one installed behind it, on which the regional councilors of the Italian Lega had written “Bolsonaro, pride of the Veneto” in the days after his election as president—there was also a delegation of opposition councilors.
Without flags or banners, but no less important, was the participation of some Comboni friars who remembered the martyrs from their ranks, such as Father Ezechiele Ramin and Don Ruggero Ruvoletto, assassinated for having defended the original populations of Amazonia. Bolsonaro has handed over Amazonia to landowners and fossil fuel multinationals, turning the indigenous people over to slaughter.
“Conferring citizenship to a man like Bolsonaro, who just a few days ago was referred for indictment for crimes against humanity by a parliamentary committee of his own country, is a slap in the face to the values of ecological and social justice,” said Paolo Perlasca, spokesman for Europa Verde. “With his management of the pandemic alone, including denials, false treatments based on hydroxychloroquine and delays in the vaccination of indigenous peoples, he has caused 606,000 victims! Maybe the citizenship could be conferred [Tuesday], on All Souls Day!”
The Brazilian president, with his personal entourage and the Lega deputies Dimitri Coin and Luis Roberto Lorenzato, the architects of the operation, went directly to the restaurant of Villa Arca del Santo, where he had lunch with the mayor of Anguillara, Alessandra Buoso, and some descendants of the Bolsonaro family, his distant relatives. “Happy and honored for the honor received,” Jair Bolsonaro thanked the mayor for the honorary citizenship and a group of his enthusiastic followers who cheered him in front of the gates of Villa Arca.
There were no cheers for the president in Padua, where, in the early afternoon, about 500 activists from the social centers and other city organizations gathered in Pra’ della Valle with the intention of reaching the churchyard of the Basilica del Santo, where Bolsonaro had announced that he would go to pray to St. Anthony, patron saint of Brazil. The procession was stopped by a cordon of police forces. There were batons, water cannons, violent charges, scenes of urban guerrilla warfare and an activist was arrested in the clashes.
As cold as the water from the water cannons was the welcome the president received from the civil and religious authorities of Padua. The mayor, Sergio Giordani (head of a center-left administration), let it be known that he had “other things to do.”
Bishop Claudio Cipolla and the rector of the Franciscan basilica, Antonio Ramina, issued a statement which said that precisely because of the strong bond built by the migrants who went to Brazil from the Veneto region, and “because of the diocesan missionary presence and that of several religious families who live their service in that country, we cannot forget the testimonies paid with blood, nor the personal and ecclesial harmony and friendship with the bishops of Brazil, who in recent months have been denouncing violence, abuse of power, exploitation of religion, and environmental devastation.”
The transversal protest in Padua forced the Brazilian president, who on Monday snubbed the opening of COP26, preferring the Veneto show, to visit the Basilica only in the late afternoon and in a very low-key manner, going in through a secondary entrance in order not to be seen.
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