Senior Brazilian culture official fired for speech evoking Nazi propaganda

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RIO DE JANEIRO – President Jair Bolsonaro’s chief culture officer was fired on Friday for a speech in which he used phrases and ideas from an infamous Nazi propaganda speech while performing an opera that Adolf Hitler considered a favorite.

The speech of Roberto Alvim, the secretary of culture, provoked a furor across the political spectrum when the Brazilians reacted with exasperation and disbelief.

The protest was the last flash point in a broader debate about freedom of expression and culture in the Bolsonaro era. The president campaigned on a promised course correction after an era of government of the leftist leaders, whom he accused of trying to impose “cultural Marxism.”

Critics say he and his allies are adopting a dogmatic approach to the arts, the public education system and sexuality and reproductive rights.

Speech by Mr. Alvim, who It was published on the Twitter account of the Ministry of Culture On Thursday night, he shows Mr. Alvim speaking severely sitting at a desk. Behind him is a framed photograph of Mr. Bolsonaro. Highlights a large wooden cross on your desk.

Careful observers were horrified after noting that within a few minutes of the address, Alvim delivered some phrases that are remarkably similar to an infamous speech by Joseph Goebbels, the propaganda minister of Nazi Germany.

Mr. Alvim’s speech textually included some phrases from Goebbels, including an exhortation to make art “in the next decade heroic.” It also includes the warning that Goebbels gave that if art does not reach the national moment, “it will cease to exist.”

In the background, Richard Wagner’s opera “Lohengrin” is playing, a play that Hitler described in his autobiography as one that had been decisive in his life, according to the Folha de São Paulo newspaper.

In announcing an investment of $ 4.8 million in the country’s national art grant program, Alvim, a veteran theater director, made it clear that the government will finance works that respond to Bolsonaro’s deeply conservative worldview.

He said Brazil needed “a culture that does not destroy, but that will save our youth.” The secretariat, he added, will seek to support works that pay homage to “the homeland, family and courage of the people, along with their deep ties to God.”

Art scholarships would support operas, theater productions, painting and sculpture exhibitions, works of literature and musical compositions.

By Friday morning, Goebbels and the Nazis were fashionable on Twitter in Brazil, while users shared news and memes that expressed horror.

As the outrage spread online, several politicians called for the immediate expulsion of Alvim, while some prominent figures close to Bolsonaro questioned his sanity.

“The secretary of Culture has crossed all the limits,” Rodrigo Maia, the president of the House wrote in a statement on Twitter. “It’s unacceptable. The Brazilian government should get him out of work urgently.”

José Antonio Dias Toffoli, president of the Supreme Court, said in a statement that Alvim’s comments deserved to be “vehemently repudiated,” adding that they were “offensive to the Brazilian people, especially the Jewish community.”

Olavo de Carvalho, a Virginia-based writer and YouTuber from Brazil, known for selling conspiracy theories and informing Bolsonaro’s thinking about social and intellectual issues, was also critical of Alvim.

“It may be early to judge” He wrote on Facebook. “But Roberto Alvim may not be sensible. We’ll see.”

The German embassy in Brazil condemned the speech. in a post on Twitter, saying that it is opposed to “any attempt to banalize or glorify” an era that “brought infinite suffering to humanity.”

Alvim defended himself in a statement on Facebook, in which he accused the leftists of reading his words too much.

He called the similarities between the two statements as a “rhetorical coincidence” and argued that “there is nothing wrong with the phrase,” which he called “perfect.”

Later in the day, he issued a second, more contrite statement in which he apologized to the Jewish community for what he called “an involuntary error.”

In a radio interview, Alvim blamed attendees for the passages in Goebbels’ speech, explaining that he has instructed them to search Google for speeches about “nationalism and art.”

Letícia Casado contributed reporting from Brasilia.

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