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Interview With U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg; Interview With Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Aired 3-4p ET.
Aired March 18, 2021 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
LUIZ INACIO LULA DA SILVA, FORMER BRAZILIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): It's important to call the main leaders of the world and put around the
table just one theme, one issue, vaccine, vaccine and vaccine.
AMANPOUR: The gladiator, Brazil's Luiz back in the ring with a direct plea to President Biden. In a world exclusive amid a brutal third wave, the
former president tells me Bolsonaro has brought Brazil to its knees.
PETE BUTTIGIEG, U.S. TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: Public transportation is part of public health. You can't separate the two.
AMANPOUR: America's crumbling infrastructure. Our Walter Isaacson asked Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg about his plans to fix it.
Then, we focus on Mississippi's broken water systems. Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba tells me what it was like when the taps ran dry and dirty.
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
Brazil's COVID crisis keeps going from bad to much, much worse, with now familiar scenes of mass graves, desperate families and a health system on
the brink of collapse. Every day brings new records in the number of cases and deaths. And a new poll shows that President Jair Bolsonaro's popularity
It is a rejection of the so-called Tropical Trump, his ridiculing of the pandemic, his focus on the economy over the health of his people, and his
attacks on Brazil's democratic institutions. And now his most formidable opponent, the former President Lula da Silva, has joined the fray, lashing
out at Bolsonaro's incompetence, calling directly for President Joe Biden to form a global coalition to vaccinate desperate nations and people.
The man Barack Obama once called the most popular politician on the planet joined me for a world exclusive, his first interview since his 2017
corruption conviction was overturned on a technicality.
Lula, who spent 580 days in prison, tells me that he might even consider another presidential run, but his first priority is the health of Brazil's
AMANPOUR: President Lula, welcome to the program.
DA SILVA (through translator): It's a great pleasure. It's an immense pleasure for me to participate in this discussion.
AMANPOUR: You came and gave a big speech this past week. And you have said that you're 75 years old, but the words give up do not exist in my
vocabulary, and you think you have the energy of a 30-year-old.
So, are you considering another run for the presidency in your country?
DA SILVA (through translator): I believe, Christiane, that this is not a major issue that we should discuss today in Brazil.
In Brazil today, we have to discuss the survival of our people. We have a lot of unemployed people. We have a lot of people that are starving and
hunger, and during my administration, we had ended hunger in Brazil, recognized by the U.N.
And, unfortunately, the lack of responsibility of those that are in the administration today, which is very similar to what Trump did in the U.S.,
is leading Brazil to great impoverishment. And it's taking Brazil also to be a victim and be the epicenter of the COVID-19 around the world.
It's a great shame. During my government, Brazil was the sixth largest economy in the world. And now we went down in the ranking to the 12th
largest economy of the world. We will discuss my candidacy for the presidency when it comes time, but now we have to discuss the survival of
210 million Brazilians.
AMANPOUR: You have also called President Bolsonaro imbecilic. You have called him a moron.
What would you do differently, and how would you do it, in terms of COVID, for instance?
DA SILVA (through translator): Well, first of all, COVID started to have a mistaken treatment here in Brazil, almost around the world, too.
And also in the U.S., with President Trump, the lack of responsibility was tremendous. The president did not believe in the effects and the strength
and force of the virus. He thought it was just a flu. And he thought that the people didn't have to use masks.
A good administration would have created a scientific committee, a committee for -- with the governors, and with the committee with health
heads of health departments, so we have a national protocol. And now we have reached almost 3,000 deaths a day.
So, this is a disease that there's no control in Brazil. The governors are making a tremendous endeavor, but the mayors are taking a lot of efforts,
but the president of the republic lacks responsibility. And he's even prescribing medicine that doesn't work, that no one believes in.
He doesn't behave himself as a president that is concerned with the health of -- the care of the people. Now Brazil is a rogue country. And,
unfortunately, our government does not respect anyone, and that's why no one respects Brazil today.
AMANPOUR: Let me ask you, because the WHO have warned that what's happening with COVID in your country could actually affect the rest of the
Let me just read you this from Director General Tedros: "If Brazil is not serious, it will continue to affect all the neighborhood there and beyond."
DA SILVA (through translator): It is very important for the American people to know that our country is the country that had an extraordinary
health care system, which is a national health system, and that was very good.
But now it's in a very bad shape. It's very important also to remember that Brazil, during the H1N1 flu, in three months, Brazil vaccinated 83 million
people. So, Brazil has the largest vaccination program in the world.
But what happened is that, in the last years, Christiane, that ended. They destroyed this national health system. They withdrew budget from the
national health system, and they ended with the vaccination system that we have.
So, what do I think now, today, Christiane? I believe that the world is lacking leadership. I believe that in this moment, in the same way when
there was the breakdown of the Lehman Brothers bank, we -- at the G20, we created the G20 gathering, and we started discussing international
The U.N. should have already called for an extraordinary General Assembly, or virtual Assembly, to discuss COVID-19. President Biden could call a G20
extraordinary meeting, and how to produce the vaccines and how to transform the vaccines in the public good, so the people, regardless of the amount of
money that the country may have, that they could receive the vaccines.
And this vaccine, we would pay back that vaccine after we end with the virus and after we win that war. That's how it happened with the U.S. in
the Second World War. Everyone is thinking by themselves. We're seven billion in the Earth, and we're producing two billion vaccines, which means
there's five billion human beings that will have no vaccine.
And so it is the responsibility of all the countries in the world, including Brazil, to take responsibility to produce vaccine for its own
people and for those peoples that cannot purchase, cannot buy, that poor country that cannot afford to buy it.
So, that's why there is a way out. What is necessary is the politicians to take responsibility.
AMANPOUR: Mr. President, as you know, only about 4.6 percent of Brazilians have been vaccinated. President Bolsonaro has, as you say, dismissed many
of the scientific facts, many of the concerns, also no lockdown, no social distancing.
And he's been very concerned about one thing, and that is the economy. This is what he said last week:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAIR BOLSONARO, BRAZILIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): How long will our economy resist? If it collapses, it will be a disgrace. What will we
have soon? Supermarket invasions, buses on fire, strikes, pickets, work stoppages.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Now your central bank is saying that, actually, the economy is surging.
Can you address what Bolsonaro is saying about having to protect the economy?
DA SILVA (through translator): Christiane, if President Bolsonaro was telling the truth, the first thing that he would do to recover the economy
was to guarantee vaccines for all the Brazilian people, because the only guarantee that the people have to survive to the COVID-19 attacks is the
And so we don't have vaccines for everybody. He replaced three health ministers in one year, and he put a general that understood about logistics
in the army, but didn't understand anything about health care issues, to be the minister, health minister.
In Brazil, we have a lot of quality with great competence. We have many doctors that could be health ministers. He didn't listen to anybody. He
prefers to wake up at 4:00 in the morning, tell his lies through his mobile phone, in the social -- through the social media.
And we have been producing fake news as we have never seen in the history of Brazil. And he's not dealing seriously. I believe that, if the president
of the republic wants to speak seriously about the economy, he would have changed our monetary base and put aside money for health care and a part of
our budget to fund small and medium-sized enterprises and part of the money to investments and infrastructure works that could create jobs.
AMANPOUR: President Lula, I need to ask you about the recent Supreme Court justice who annulled your -- on a technicality threw out the conviction and
And I wonder what you feel about that, and especially whether you think that it will go to court again, go to trial again. Do you think you will be
DA SILVA (through translator): Well, Christiane, I have no issue if I'm going to be judged again, on trial again.
What I'm saying to you is that what happened in my case was the greatest judicial farce in the history of 500 years of Brazil. And this was said by
one of the justices, Gilmar Mendes, of the Brazilian Supreme Court.
And I have been saying and pleading for my innocence. I have been saying that the Moro, judge, that Judge Moro was a liar, former Judge Moro. And
part of the prosecutors, they organized a gang to take over and attack Petrobras, the state oil company, and together with some U.S. prosecutors.
This is not -- I'm not inventing this. This was all on recording. We have the recordings of the prosecutors discussing with the judge my case and
with Swiss and U.S. DOJ prosecutors. So, I'm very comfortable that the ruling of the Justice Fachin, he annulled everything.
AMANPOUR: I just need to follow up, because, although they did annul your conviction, the justice did not reject the evidence that was collected
during the investigation that led to your conviction.
And the Brazilian people, by huge margins, have had enough of corruption. Is that what Brazilians have to look forward to forever? What is going to
stop the endemic political corruption and economic corruption in your country?
DA SILVA (through translator): Well, we cannot mix to fight corruption that we have to fight and what was done in a political will to destroy my
image and to destroy the image of my party.
And so, Christiane, there's only one Brazilian that, in this moment, wants to know the truth and only the truth. It's me. I have my consciousness. I'm
so comfortable with my consciousness.
And I have so much certainty. I have so much certainty about me that I want the truth above anything and more than any other human being on the planet
Earth, because I know that declaring my innocence and the truth that I know will come up, will emerge is the guilt of a judge that was responsible and
part of the prosecutor's office that created the gang to destroy the state oil company Petrobras and to destroy my image.
So, for me, I believe that we only end with corruption in Brazil when we end with the corruption, not committing the same crime that the others did.
And that includes the prosecutor's office.
AMANPOUR: President Lula, when you were in office, President Barack Obama called you the most popular politician on Earth.
You, of course, are famous for having raised millions of Brazilians out of extreme poverty and having put a social welfare net for people. You're also
the first left-wing president to have completed your terms after decades of military right-wing rule in your country.
But you are a very, very polarizing figure. The health minister who was fired by Bolsonaro, Mandetta, he told me this week that it would be bad for
Brazil to have either you or Bolsonaro in office.
Listen to what he told me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LUIZ HENRIQUE MANDETTA, FORMER BRAZILIAN HEALTH MINISTER: It's a threat to Brazil, because they're both extremes, one on the left hand and one on the
extreme right hand. So, they do the same mistakes, and they both would bring people to really complain on each other. Hate is their fuel.
I don't know who would win, but for sure Brazil would lose.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DA SILVA (through translator): You know what is my comment, Christiane, is that Mandetta, maybe he can understand about health care, but, in politics,
he doesn't understand anything.
I'm not a new politician. I have been in the trade union movement since 1975. I'm a person that I have ran since 1989, and I lost three
presidential elections. I have never been a radical. You can't call me a left wing or right wing.
The other day, they asked me if I'm a communist. And I responded I'm a lathe operator. I'm a worker that understood that politics was important,
that the working people should participate in politics. And that's why I founded the party, Brazil, during the Workers' Party administration, the
best administration in its history, the growth of the GDP, of the salaries going up and the rising of the very poor, racial equality.
We invested in the most miserable people, poorest people; 40 million people were lifted to middle class, and 36 million were -- other 36 million were
lifted from extreme poverty; 70 million Brazilians opened new bank accounts.
And so we developed one of the highest social inclusion programs in the world. I don't know if you know, Christiane, because I don't have a
university degree, and I the president that opened more universities in our country, federal, public, and put more students in university in Brazil
than any other president in the history of Brazil.
When I left the presidency, after eight years in term, two terms, I had 87 percent of the polls of support for my administration.
So, I'm going to ask you one more time, because you're clearly very passionate about your country and about your record, as you say, lifting so
many Brazilians out of poverty.
Would you consider a run again for president? Are you thinking about the possibility? I'm not asking you to give me a yes or no firmly, but is it
something that you will consider?
DA SILVA (through translator): Christiane, let me tell you something.
When I saw Biden being elected, I thought, he's 77. I still have 75. And I say every day that I have 75 years of age, but the energy and power of 30.
So when it comes to the moment to run for the elections, and if my party and the other allied parties understand that I could be the candidate, and
if I'm well in my health, with the energy and power that I have today, I can reassure you that I will not deny that invitation.
But I don't want to talk about that. I don't want -- that's not my main priority. My main priority now is to save this country. We need to create
jobs, urgently. The economy has to go back to grow. And we need to vaccinate our society.
I should say, and I know, that the U.S. has vaccines in a surplus, that they're not going to use all that vaccine, and maybe that vaccine, who
knows, could be donated to Brazil or to other countries even poorer than Brazil that cannot afford to buy the vaccine.
So, one suggestion that I would like to make to President Biden, through your program, is, it's very important to call a G20 meeting urgently. It's
important to call the main leaders of the world and put around the table just one thing, one issue, vaccine, vaccine, and vaccine.
This is even worse than the Second World War or the First World War. If we're not careful, we will be killing more people, more people will be
dying than in the Second World War.
So, the responsibility of the international leaders is tremendous. So, I'm asking to President Biden to do that, because I can't -- I don't believe in
my government. And so I couldn't ask for that for Trump, but Biden is a breath for democracy in the world.
And so Biden could play this historical role to take responsibility, as the largest economy of the world, to call the Indians, the Chinese, Europeans,
everybody, and let's take action together against COVID.
Let's defeat COVID, as we defeated the Nazis in the Second World War. This is what has to be done now, and urgently.
AMANPOUR: I want to ask you about one last existential matter that even after COVID will plague this planet and its civilization, which Biden has
already also made a priority, and that is the climate crisis.
Deforestation in the Amazon has surged massively under this president, and he doesn't seem to take the climate emergency -- Bolsonaro doesn't take it
What needs to be done in your country right now to protect your country, to protect the indigenous people and the climate for your area and
biodiversity for all of us?
DA SILVA (through translator): Well, Bolsonaro, effectively, does not represent Brazil when we're talking about climate change.
The only thing that Bolsonaro understands is to care of his militiamen and to incentive people to buy guns. The rain forest in the Amazon is a
cultural heritage of humanity under Brazilian sovereignty, so we -- Brazil is the owner of the Amazon, but the fact that it's part of Brazil is not an
impediment that we should participate in international agreements to conserve the Amazon rain forest for the rest of -- with the rest of the
We don't need gold prospectors or loggers in the rain forest. We don't need that. Brazil needs to guarantee to the people that live in the rain forest
in the Amazon that they can work in an environmental setting that is sustainable, that will not cause destruction, so the Amazon could even
receive through the Brazilian government incentives.
Now, it's very important that we have to make it clear that this is not Bolsonaro. And you can be sure, I can reassure that there's a lot of people
here in Brazil that is fighting to advocate or defend the rain forest in the Amazon.
And that's why we need to call to reelect or reelect someone that has the mind-set that is different from Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro is -- makes -- is an
evil for the Brazilian democracy. He's an evil for the economy, for democracy, for education and for peace.
He's an evil in all these issues. And so we cannot continue with this man ruling our country.
AMANPOUR: So, let me just ask you then, do you regret your policies and the policies of the Workers' Party, when you took a developmental approach
to the Amazon occasionally, especially with the Belo Monte Dam? It had huge environmental impact.
DA SILVA (through translator): I will be criticized, because I should have built a lake for the dam in Belo Monte, because people thought I was going
to generate electrical power with that.
But I made all the agreements with all the indigenous people, with the people that live side by side the river. One day, you come to Brazil,
Christiane, and I -- whatever I'm busy, I will leave aside and I will travel with you to Belo Monte, the Amazon, so you will see with your own
eyes what happened there.
AMANPOUR: President Lula da Silva, thank you very much for joining me.
DA SILVA (through translator): Thank you very much, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: Now, we have asked many, many times for an interview with the current president, Jair Bolsonaro, and we hope that he will one day agree
to answer some of these serious questions.
Now, it is, of course, all about infrastructure and an essential part of daily life, whether in public health utility systems, or indeed how we get
In the United States, billions of dollars are going towards improving transit in President Biden's American Rescue Plan. The industry was hit
hard during the pandemic.
And Pete Buttigieg is Biden's new transportation secretary.
And he tells our Walter Isaacson it is an equity issue that's tied to health and, of course, the climate.
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Christiane.
And, Secretary Buttigieg, welcome to the show.
BUTTIGIEG: Thanks for having me. Good to be with you.
ISAACSON: The American Rescue Plan that we have just passed to fight COVID, it's got $30 billion for public transportation, for transit.
First of all, why is that part of a COVID relief bill? And, secondly, what is it going to do?
BUTTIGIEG: Well, two simple reasons why it is part of a COVID relief bill.
First of all, COVID is the reason why these public transit agencies and other transportation entities got absolutely crushed when it came to
revenue. Many of them had to cut routes. Many of them were looking at laying off more workers if we didn't do something.
The second reason this has a lot to do with COVID relief is the simple fact that we can't expect all Americans to be able to get vaccinated if they
literally can't get to where the shots are available.
The truth is, public transportation is part of public health. You can't separate the two. And this infusion of support from the American Rescue
Plan is going to allow us to bring a lot of these agencies back from the brink, not just local public transit, by the way, but also Amtrak, which
was going to have to cut even more of the routes they had cut. Now they're restoring routes already.
We saw news about airlines telling their employees they could tear up those furlough notices. This is a real sigh of relief across the transportation
ISAACSON: OK, but in places like South Bend or here in New Orleans, what are we going to expect, especially with public transit now? What's your
BUTTIGIEG: Well, as we said, with the Rescue Plan, we're able to get back on our feet.
For the long run, I'm really energized about what's possible with a comprehensive infrastructure vision. It's been talked about here in
Washington for a long time. But, right now, I think we have a once-in-a- lifetime combination of public impatience, bipartisan interest, a supportive president, and the right kind of economic conditions to do
In communities like New Orleans or South Bend, that could mean ensuring that we have more of the routes that are going to serve those who maybe
have been bypassed in the past.
It also means making sure that transit is part of the climate solutions. We have programs already that make it possible for agencies, for example, to
buy buses that run on electric power and are not emitting.
But that's just the beginning of what we could do. And, again, all of these things are connected. A lot of people who live closer to bus routes and
highways that they have a lot of vehicles with high emissions are more likely to be communities of color, and are more likely to suffer from
health issues related to particulate matter going into the air.
Now is the time for an infrastructure vision, whether we're talking about public transit, whether we're talking about aviation, driving, or any other
way of getting people and goods around the country. Now is the time to embrace the goals of climate responsibility, equity, and economic strength
for the future.
ISAACSON: So, how do you build climate responsibility into an infrastructure bill that you're thinking of?
BUTTIGIEG: Well, think about what's happening with electric vehicles.
The technology is getting better and better in the cars. But we have got to go a long way in order to make sure there's the charging infrastructure, so
that people would not be anxious about whether they would run out of charge on a medium-sized trip.
That's why the president committed to installing half-a-million electric vehicle charging stations across the country. It's the kind of thing that
we need to do as a matter of policy in order for the private sector to be able to do the rest with these fantastic electric cars that are being often
designed, made, built right here in America.
This also goes hand in hand with other kinds of related policy, so, housing, for example. Obviously, a different U.S. department handles that.
But transit-oriented development, making sure the way that our cities and communities continue to grow, is compatible with giving Americans more
options for how to get around, that's something that should be closely connected to a better vision for access to public transportation.
Look, cars are a big part of the community I grew up in, which was largely created as an auto manufacturing town, and will always be an important part
of American life. But we need to have alternatives to cars as well, from bicycles to trains.
And it's about making sure all of these things fit together in a way that makes sense for Americans and makes sense for our climate.
ISAACSON: The last time America had a really great infrastructure bill was during the Eisenhower years, when we did the interstate highway system.
But it was so focused. I know you have been reading about Robert Moses and things. It was so focused on the automobile. What mistakes were made there
that you think we now have to remedy?
BUTTIGIEG: Well, I think those policies really revolved around the car has, as you say.
We need to make sure the policies revolve around human beings, who will sometimes be in a car, sometimes be on foot or on a bicycle or in a
wheelchair, or sometimes want to be able to get on a train. All of these things have to be supported in an integrated way.
And I think you're right that this is a moment the likes of which we haven't seen since President Eisenhower implemented the interstate highway
plan. I'd say this is maybe the fourth moment for a transformational investment and decision around infrastructure.
The most recent one was the interstate highway system under Eisenhower. You could go back about a century before that to the Lincoln era, and what it
meant to truly get this country connected by rail with Transcontinental Railroad.
And you could go back a couple of generations before that to look at how the construction of the Erie Canal wasn't just about moving goods on water.
It was one of the things that actually made the United States one country.
We got to have that same level of ambition right now, because I believe a moment like this, with the conditions we have, and the appetite that we
have, and the need that we have, comes along roughly once every 50 to 100 years. And shame on us if we don't do something about it, because I can
tell you, our international competitors, notably China, very much are making those investments. And we risk being left behind.
ISAACSON: Man, I love your sense of history on these great waves. And each of the waves you have talked about had some signature to it, whether it be
the great rail connections or the interstate highways.
Do you think your infrastructure bill on the Biden administration is going to have some big signature, defining characteristic or will it more
properly just be a collection of many different things?
BUTTIGIEG: This one will need to be a little more spread out. And I'll tell you one of the main reasons why. We've got about a trillion-dollar
backlog just in maintaining what we've already got. Now, it's not as glamorous as building something new. But the truth is, we've just got to
fix the roads and improve the bridges that we have.
And there are some places where we may even need to reduce what we have a little bit. Areas where there's just more asphalt than we need. And some
mayors, I definitely know how these feels, has to pave, plow and maintain it when it's actually no longer meeting its original purpose.
So, we've got to add and subtract. And the sum total of all this will be a transportation network that works across every mode and it works across
every kind of community, rural and urban. And that means paying attention to the history. Sometimes the dark history of the past where highways went
through, often black neighborhoods, sometimes destroying them, and where other communities and neighborhoods were left out entirely.
ISAACSON: Yes. When you talk about that, highways being built in the past that destroyed thriving black neighborhoods, I mean, I can look just about
seven blocks from here and Claiborne Avenue used to be a thriving black business district until an expressway was built on top of it. Do you think
there should be money to take some of these things down?
BUTTIGIEG: I do. I think that we ought to have funding that is specifically committed to reversing some of the arms in the past. But it's
not just a backward-looking project. If we make these investments in the right way, we're also creating thriving communities for the future. That's
a policy choice we could be making right now. And if we do it right, it will pay dividends.
Look, there is a lot of hard-nosed economic analysis telling us that the cost of racial inequity to this country brings the entire country down.
Holds the entire country back. So, these are investments that are going to be to the benefit of U.S. economic strengths writ large as well as
representing a measure of justice and equity to communities that have been harmed.
ISAACSON: Give me a good example of an equity driven public or transportation decision you might make.
BUTTIGIEG: Well, a good example is along the lines of what you've described. So, if you have a community where a highway was sent right
through a neighborhood, often a neighborhood where there were minoritized residents who were politically considered, literally, the path of least
resistance. Sometimes that highway still needs to happen, but it ought to be underground.
And when you do that, when you actually move it underground, you can create new land. That scarcest thing that you usually can't get any more of, only
less, through what's on top of it and make decisions about how that land can be used for the benefit of the community.
The mayor of Mount Vernon, New York, let me know that in that community, at certain times of day, residents find it easier to get down to Manhattan
than to get across town to get to a grocery store because of the way that that community has been sliced up through infrastructure investments in the
past. Are there ways that we could do something to fix that?
These are the kinds of investments that I'm excited about. And one more thing which will be a policy and economic challenge. We've got to make sure
the business opportunities that are going to be created with infrastructure spending, in terms of who owns businesses, especially small businesses that
get these contracts, and whose working on the projects reflect America.
There's a lot of conversation around buy America. There also needs to be a lot of conversation around things like local hire. It won't be easy because
we've got to build up a business base to do this. But shame on us if we allow a lot of resources to be spent once again and have them not go to
businesses that reflect the communities where these investments are happening.
ISAACSON: In addition to looking at the new transportation infrastructure bill through an equity lens, you say you want to look at it through a
climate lens. Give me some examples in which people may not understand how you can do things that will have significant impact on climate change,
including -- would that include things like next generation air traffic control or moving away from cars to transit?
BUTTIGIEG: Yes. There's a huge opportunity here. It starts with this. If you look across the U.S. economy, the sector that contributes the most
greenhouse gases is transportation. Now, that also means transportation stands to be the biggest part of the solution. We already talked about
electric cars. That's one big part of it. We've got to help make sure that they're adopted.
Also, having alternatives to cars. That's why we need to have good transit options. And this is not just a big city or blue state thing. Smaller
communities can benefit enormously from having quality transportation options like good buses or bus rapid transit. Even just making communities
more bike friendly creates a greener and healthier way for a lot of people to get to work and get where they need to be.
So, there are a lot of these things that we know how to do right now before you even get into the more futuristic possibilities. What high-speed rail
would really mean to our climate future in this country. Sustainable aviation fuel, something that's in its infancy but shows a lot of promise.
And in the meantime, as you mentioned, next generation air traffic control means that airplanes are just in the air less long. You have shorter hang
time, so to speak, while these routes are being flown because you can better optimize the way the plane is moving around.
We think there's a 10 percent or 15 percent opportunity to reduce fuel consumption just from that one change. Now, I'm making it sound easy. A lot
goes into upgrading the air traffic control system and all its complexity. But we need to be pursuing all of the above in order to do what we must do,
which is a net zero economy by 2050.
ISAACSON: An infrastructure bill would not just be about transportation, of course. We have a lot of crumbling infrastructure. The mayor of Jackson,
Mississippi, is coming on this show to talk about the water problem in Jackson, Mississippi. How do you make sure an infrastructure bill
integrates and is holistic and not just about each sector doing its own thing?
BUTTIGIEG: It's a really important point especially because we're also adapting to the fact that the right answer on an infrastructure choice
might change given the fact that water levels are rising. The truth is, not all of this has to get sorted out in Washington, in this building.
Communities can do a great job of planning in an integrated way for about their future.
We've got to make sure that we support and reward and encourage those integrated plans. And we're doing it right now, even with the authorities
we already have. For example, I signed off recently on a round of grants can INFRA, about $889 million available to communities and states working
to improve their infrastructure. And for the first time, we explicitly included considerations like climate and racial equity to encourage
communities to come back to us with a plan that really explains how everything they are seeking to do fits together.
Infrastructure is everywhere. Yes, it's roads and bridges. It's also ports and waterways. By the way, the national air space is a piece of
infrastructure, even though you can't touch it in the same way as a bridge. And increasingly, digital infrastructure needs to be part of that
ISAACSON: Infrastructure bills used to be very bipartisan because there was a road for everybody or a bridge for everybody or new airport facility.
And people are thinking this may be the opportunity to break the fever of the hyper partisanship we have in Washington and make this bill truly
bipartisan. How much conversation, though, are you having with your old colleagues on Capitol Hill from the other party and how optimistic are you
that there might actually be Republicans who say, let me help write and support this bill?
BUTTIGIEG: Let me tell you, I've had lots of conversations with Republican and Democratic senators and House members. We've had two meetings now led
by the president in the Oval Office with members of both parties from the House and the Senate respectively. And what I find is that that appetite
really is there, just like I find it among my former mayoral colleagues of both parties. There's a sincere desire to get something done.
Now, I'm not naive. Just because there is a sincere desire it doesn't mean it will happen. Not in today's Washington. But I'll say this, if there's
anything that can still be done on a bipartisan basis in this town, I believe it's infrastructure.
ISAACSON: But the COVID Relief Bill passed without any Republican support. Can you accomplish your goals without getting a few Republican votes?
BUTTIGIEG: Well, again, I think that there is sincere bipartisan interest in doing this. And we would much rather do this on a bipartisan basis. Now,
when the vast majority of Republicans and Democrats across America want to do something, the question of whether that's bipartisan here in Washington
in the end is up to Republican legislators. They've got to decide whether to vote with the American people and we've got to decide how to put
together a package that can earn that vote.
I'm optimistic about doing it. But the bottom line is, we've got to get something done.
ISAACSON: And how do you make people feel comfortable that we can pay for that?
BUTTIGIEG: Well, you know, often the question of how are you going to pay for that is used to end a conversation. I think it's the beginning of a
conversation because on one level, it's actually relatively simple. Now, I don't mean to say easy. When I say simple, I mean, that there are basically
three things you can do. You can do user fees, things like the gas tax that pay for roads based on how much you drive, things like taxes and collecting
taxes is obviously a classic way of how governments pay for the things they do or you are borrowing against future fees and taxes.
It basically comes down to whatever combination of one or more of those three things, fees, taxes and borrowing we're willing to do. Now, here's
the good news. Return on investment for infrastructure spending is incredibly robust. Especially right now with historically low interest
rates. So, whatever combination of those funding sources Congress is willing to put up will yield things that we absolutely need as a country
and I also think are generationally important.
You know, often a hesitancy to spend is expressed in the rhetoric of, you know, we don't want our kids to have to pay for this. I think on some level
that's a responsible way to think about it. But we also don't want a future generation to have to pick up the pieces of a failure to invest in American
infrastructure or, worse, a failure to prevent climate destruction. That choice is in our hands right now.
ISAACSON: Mr. Secretary, thank you so much for joining us.
BUTTIGIEG: Thank you. Great to be with you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Now, as Walter and the secretary mentioned, if any American city knows about the dire state of infrastructure, it is Jackson, Mississippi.
Residents there spent about a month without water, unable to wash, flush or drink after last month's major winter storm turned the taps dry and forced
a citywide boil water advisory. That notice has finally been lifted. And most of the city's water has been restored. But is the crisis really over?
Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba joins me now from Jackson.
And welcome, Mayor, to the program.
You heard the secretary of transportation himself talking about your city and state and the infrastructure. Just tell me about now the boil water
advisory has been lifted. Is the problem of dirty, contaminated water finished now?
MAYOR CHOKWE ANTAR LUMUMBA (D-JACKSON, MS): Well, the problem of water that would pose a hazard to people drinking it today is beyond us, but the
issues of an aged infrastructure, the issues which led us into this crisis to begin with are certainly not over. We have been, you know, lifting up
this issue for some time now -- you know, not only in our statehouse, amongst state leadership, but in the halls of Congress. We've talked about
the fact that it's not a matter of if our infrastructure would fail but when our infrastructure will fail. And it's unfortunately not an unusual or
unfamiliar narrative with many legacy cities across the nation.
AMANPOUR: Mayor, just in case, you know, international viewers and viewers across the United States might not know, tell us how difficult it was for
the residents of your city during this month. What did they have to do to actually just get drinking water or be able to cook or brush their teeth?
LUMUMBA: Incredibly challenging state of affairs. You know, the water pressure was low in most homes and absent in other homes. And we know the
many things that people rely on water for. Water is essential to life. Not only for drinking and cooking, and in the midst of a pandemic, the need to
sanitize your hands and to clean for hygienic purposes. But also, it posed a major inconvenience in people's lives. While the city set up distribution
sites for both potable and non-potable water, it was an interruption in people's days. We had to deliver to homes where people were immobile,
disabled, the elderly.
And so, it's been incredibly challenging and it's something that our residents don't deserve. I think that we have to understand from the state,
local and federal level that the resources we provide towards infrastructure are a suggestion of our values, whether we value sustainable
infrastructure that people depend on is an important notion that we have to lift up.
AMANPOUR: So, you know, who is to blame, is perhaps an easy way to put it. You mentioned, you know, old and aging infrastructure. Obviously, the
climate is affecting issues like that. And I wonder whether you are getting enough from the state now to support basic needs like water.
LUMUMBA: Historically, it's been an effort to punt the ball. You know, the City of Jackson has invested millions of dollars into its water
infrastructure along with the other areas of infrastructure that we have to maintain each and every year. What we find is that it is often held as
Jackson's problem. The reality is that the City of Jackson is the largest city, by a factor of three, in the state of Mississippi, meaning we provide
the lion's share of revenue to the state.
The City of Jackson is the capital of the State of Mississippi, meaning much of our property, our state-owned parcels, and our untaxable in most
capital cities in this nation, they receive payment in lieu of tax, recognizing the burden that that creates on cities. And lastly, the City of
Jackson provides water to the State of Mississippi in terms of state facilities at no cost to the State of Mississippi.
If we merely have revenue from the water that we generate or produced to them, then we would be in a lot better place. And there has been an effort
to strip resources from cities. You know, as we get money from being an entitlement city, which is sent down from the federal government, that
money is often redirected by central Mississippi planning and development districts that had tried to extract money that is intended for the City of
Jackson based on its size.
And so, we have to course correct and have to understand that we will never solve a problem with the same level of thinking that created it.
AMANPOUR: Would you favor the state taking over, you know, the distribution, the organization of, you know, permanent, clean water?
LUMUMBA: Absolutely not. The City of Jackson doesn't need someone to take over. The City of Jackson needs support which is commensurate with the
level of support the City of Jackson provides to the State of Mississippi.
An effort to take it over is an effort to extract the benefits of what the water service provides in terms of revenue. It isn't a goal of creating a
more sustainable condition for people. And so, the State of Mississippi has already taken its fair share from the City of Jackson, and we just want to
make sure that that sacrifice is met timely and equitably.
AMANPOUR: Mayor Lumumba, you alluded to, you know, the equity, the poverty of, certainly, Mississippi. It's a very poor state. We've heard Secretary
Buttigieg talk about racial equity when they are trying to talk about, you know, infrastructure and where they're going to put money to help various
And, of course, much has been written about Jackson. You know, it was a majority white city in 1960, almost two-thirds of the population was white,
and then when there was integration, there was a huge white flight. Now, the majority of your city is 82 percent African-American.
You were talking about the taxes and this and that. What role does this white flight play in -- you know, in infrastructure, in money, in taxes and
revenue, and just taking care of the needs of the city?
LUMUMBA: Well, it plays a significant and substantial role, not only in terms of the reduction in population. Much of the infrastructure of the
City of Jackson was built when the city was larger, more than 200,000 people. And now, that it's in, you know, about 168,000, there still is a
need to maintain that infrastructure. But the divestment that has taken place, the intentionality and not wanting to support the City of Jackson
because of its make-up, its demographic make-up and its selection of leadership, that has been an ongoing problem.
As we have heard recent reports of the suggestion that Jackson's problems surfaced once the leadership started to resemble the community in which it
serves, that is the same backwards thinking that leads to a failure to support the city. We go to our state legislature year after year and
express the need. Express, you know, just how dire the circumstance is in our aging infrastructure.
We have one -- over 100-year-old water treatment facility. Another one which is outdated as well. We have many pipes that are well beyond 100
years old. And this is the type of infrastructure that no city is really equipped to deal with, that the revenue or the budget that we have is
insufficient to meet that need. And so, we see that not only in terms of the private divestment that is taking place on the business side, but we
also see that in the lack of willingness in order to get the support that we need from the state.
AMANPOUR: And let's not forget, I just want to remind viewers that, you know, the issue of dirty water in your city is not unique. We have been,
you know, watching and reporting on the terrible situation that happened in Flint, Michigan, with lead contaminated water. There are many parts of the
United States in which water is a major, major issue, which is, as you say, the basic ingredient of life.
I want to broaden it out a little bit to President Biden's American Rescue Plan and what he is trying to do to raise cities, states and, you know,
some of the most dispossessed in the country. You voted and supported -- you supported Bernie Sanders, the great, you know, progressive politician
in the United States. This is what he says about the Biden plan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): This is the most significant legislation for working people that has been passed in decades. And I think what shocks
many in the establishment and certainly my Republican colleagues is that we wrote a bill to address the crises facing working families and the middle
class and low-income people and not the wealthy and large corporations and their lobbyists.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Mayor Lumumba, also the child tax credit and others, you know, they are pointing to it as really disproportionately finally helping, you
know, minority communities, black communities, that will raise, you know, so many children out of poverty and cut into the poverty level in the
Do you agree, first of all, with what Bernie Sanders said about this bill, and how do you expect to reap the benefits of it for your city?
LUMUMBA: Well, first and foremost, there's a great deal of optimism concerning the most recent bill. And we look forward to establishing the
efficacy of what the policy attempts to achieve. As we look at the issues of poverty, poverty is the worst form of violence. And so, I'm a proud
member of Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, understanding that, you know, the value of people, mothers who are CEOs of their household and aren't
compensated or supported in that way.
I think that we have to turn the page in terms of the metrics by which we judge success of our economy in this nation. It should be less a measure of
GDP, less a measure of what the stock market is demonstrating to us.
AMANPOUR: I think we are having some technical difficulties. He's back. Great. Mayor Lumumba, I heard what you said. Your -- you know, your screen
froze for a bit. That's what happens in these times.
Can I just ask you a question about your name? The name Lumumba is famous in the International Black Liberation Movement. Obviously, Patrice Lumumba
was the first prime minister of Congo after it was, you know, liberated from its Belgian colonialists. Your parents were political activists. Your
father was mayor before you. Is there any connection between Patrice Lumumba's name and yours?
LUMUMBA: My father adopted the name Lumumba out of homage to Patrice after studying and wanting to reclaim a portion of his stolen legacy as, you
know, people who have suffered the historic slave trade. And so, he chose the name both out of honor and respect and understanding that a name means
so much. What we call one another speaks to what we are expected of one another.
So, Lumumba not only is a beautiful name in terms of the history of Patrice but also, you know, in terms of calling us to be gifted in which the name
AMANPOUR: Yes, it's an incredible story. Mayor Lumumba, thank you so much for joining us from Jackson, Mississippi. We wish you and your people well
with the water situation.
And finally, tonight, the ultimate antique road show dream come true. A bowl bought for $35 at a Connecticut yard sale has just sold at a Sotheby's
auction for over $700,000. It remains a mystery how the so-called lotus bowl found itself to the yard sale in the first place. But it turned out to
be an exceptionally rare find dating back to 15th century China. There are only six others known to exist in the world right now and most of them are
in museums. It just goes to show, it's always worth rifling through those cupboards and the attics.
And that is it for us. Now, you can always catch us online, on our podcast and across social media. Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.