Roberto Alvim: Brazil culture minister sacked over speech which echoed Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels

Far-right president says minister fired over ‘unfortunate statement’

Conrad Duncan
Saturday 18 January 2020 18:08
Brazil's culture secretary fired after speech echoing Nazi Joseph Goebbels

Brazil’s culture secretary has been sacked after using language that echoed Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels.

Roberto Alvim drew anger from Jewish organisations, lawmakers, political parties and artists this week over his remarks in a video on Thursday to launch an arts initiative focused on nationalism and religion.

“The Brazilian art of the next decade will be heroic and will be national,” Mr Alvim said in the video.

“It will yield great capacity of emotional involvement and it will be equally imperative, as it will be deeply committed to the urgent aspirations of our people, or it will be nothing.”

Goebbels, the Nazi’s minister of propaganda, said in a speech in 1933: “The German art of the next decade will be heroic, it will be steely romantic, it will be factual and completely free of sentimentality, it will be national with great pathos and committed, or it will be nothing.”

The similarities between the two speeches were identified by Brazilian media, prompting a public backlash against Mr Alvim.

Although Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s far-right president, has often been defiant against criticism, the culture secretary was removed from his post on Friday.

Mr Bolsonaro said the minister had made an “unfortunate statement” and his position was now “untenable”.

“I reiterate our repudiation of totalitarian and genocidal ideologies, such as Nazism and Communism, as well as any kind of allusion to them,” the president added in a statement.

Mr Bolsonaro has previously been criticised by human rights groups for celebrating torturers and killers from Brazil’s 1964-85 military dictatorship.

Mr Bolsonaro had announced a $4.9m (£3.8m) arts initiative for Mr Alvim’s department to foment the production of literature, theatre, opera, music and other arts, despite his government being strapped for cash.

Mr Alvim, a theatre director who has only held the culture post since November, claimed the similarities between the two speeches were merely a “rhetorical coincidence”.

He has disavowed Nazism and said he has removed the video of his speech “in respect to all citizens who felt offended by its content”.

Before his firing, Davi Alcolumbre, the first Jewish president of Brazil’s senate, described the video as “shockingly Nazism-inspired”.

In the video, Mr Alvim is sitting beneath a framed picture of Mr Bolsonaro, with music by Richard Wagner, a composer sometimes associated with Nazism and German nationalism, playing lightly in the background.

He has admitted in a radio interview that he chose the music himself, but insisted he picked the composer’s work because it stemmed from his Christian faith.

Regina Duarte, a popular Brazilian actress known for her career in soap operas, has told local media that she has been invited to replace Mr Alvim but has not yet decided whether to accept the role.

Mr Bolsonaro’s campaign to change Brazilian culture has extended beyond the arts to include issues such as the content of school textbooks and teen pregnancy.

The government has made education, especially in early childhood, a top priority, with Mr Bolsonaro and his education minister announcing a “clean-up” to take “filth” out of children’s textbooks in January.

Additional reporting by AP

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