Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro vetoed a bill Wednesday that would have provided aid funds to artists and cultural programs hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, triggering an outcry from opposition lawmakers, who vowed to override him.
Named after a widely beloved comedian and actor who died of Covid-19 last year, the Paulo Gustavo Bill aimed to provide 3.86 billion reais (US$820 million) in federal funds to local and state governments to aid the cultural sector, still reeling from the impact of pandemic shut-downs.
It had passed Congress with broad support, by a vote of 74-0 in the Senate and 411-27 in the Chamber of Deputies.
Bolsonaro's veto, published in the official gazette, was for economic reasons, the administration said. It argued the bill would breach the government's spending cap without sourcing enough funds elsewhere to compensate.
Opposition lawmakers called that an excuse from the far-right president, long criticised for alleged attacks on culture and the arts.
Bolsonaro, who comes up for reelection in October, downgraded the culture ministry to a secretariat on taking office in 2019. His administration has faced repeated accusations of using its control over federal funding for the arts to try to censor projects it deems ideologically threatening.
"It's not surprising that Bolsonaro vetoed the Paulo Gustavo Bill, given that this is an administration that hates culture," tweeted Senator Zenaide Maia of opposition party PROS.
"But his veto also shows tremendous lack of vision, since investing in the cultural sector helps Brazil exit the current crisis. Culture is good in and of itself, but it also creates jobs and income."
Congressman Odair Cunha of the left-wing Workers' Party tweeted that Bolsonaro is "afraid of culture and freedom of expression, like every lover of dictatorship," vowing: "We're going to override that veto."
Lawmakers would need an absolute majority in both houses of Congress to override.