‘Stupid and Senseless Politicians’: Artist Vik Muniz Blasts Brazilian Leaders After a Deadly Flood Sweeps Through Rio de Janeiro

The artist had sharp words for the city's mayor and the country's right-wing president.

Relatives mourn after a fatal mudslide caused by heavy rains in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on April 9. Photo by Mauro Pimentel AFP/Getty Images.

The Brazilian artist Vik Muniz is expressing his outrage at the lack of emergency preparations in his home city of Rio de Janeiro that led to catastrophic flooding and fatal mudslides that have killed at least 10 people.

On his Instagram account, Muniz posted a dramatic video of cars submerged under rapidly flowing waters running through city streets. The footage, which include images of rescue workers, is accompanied by an ironic soundtrack.

In the post, which is written in English, Muniz singled out the city’s mayor, Marcelo Crivella, with a series of accusatory remarks. He writes that Crivella, who is also a Catholic bishop, has “senselessly cut investments on maintenance of waterways and response to emergencies, counting on the same divine mercy that has stuffed his pockets with sweaty bills from the poor, to provide this [sic] same people with… precarious response plans, and absolutely not a single measure of relief.”

The artist, who posted the video from Tokyo, where he is traveling, compared Brazil’s emergency responses to Japan’s well-funded preparations. He called Japan “a place constantly working for readiness to face increasing catastrophic events, a place where nobody should die because of corrupt, stupid and senseless politicians.”

The flash floods have been triggered by torrential rain, which started falling on Monday night. But while the rain has stopped, the danger of mudslides remains high. Two people are reported to have died in the Babilonia favela, a hillside slum near Rio’s famous Sugarloaf Mountain. In February, floods and landslides killed six people in the city.

The socially engaged artist, who has helped build an art school in a favela, did not spare Brazil’s newly elected right-wing president, Jair Bolsonaro, writing: “The President and his minion clan are hypocrite climate deniers who paradigmatically blame nature for everything they chose to ignore.” He added: “We are all responsible for having these people in office.”

Large parts of the city were affected by the latest deluge, but no major institutions are reported to have been damaged. The heavy rain forced the city’s two major art museums, the Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro and the Museu de Arte do Rio, to close yesterday, April 9. The area around the city’s botanical garden in the Parque Lage saw some of the worst of the flooding. Some classes at the nearby school of visual arts were also postponed.

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