SAO PAULO – Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has fired the culture minister after a video in which he paraphrased Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Germany’s propaganda chief, sparked an international scandal.
“I announce the withdrawal of Roberto Alvim from the Ministry of Culture of the Government. Although he has apologized it is a sad pronouncement, his permanence became unsustainable,” a statement signed by the Bolsonaro said.
The footage shared on the official social media channel Thursday featured Alvim promoting the National Arts Award using adjectives and phrases coined by Goebbels to promote German culture.
“The Brazilian art of the next decade will be heroic and will be national, will be endowed with a great capacity for emotional involvement and will be equally imperative, as it will be deeply linked to the urgent aspirations of our people, or else it will be nothing,” Alvin said in the controversial video.
Alvin recorded the speech as Richard Wagner’s Lohengrin opera played in the background, renowned for being Adolf Hitler’s favorite composer.
An almost immediate reaction on social media ensued as individuals took to the Internet to decry the similarities to Nazi German rhetoric in the speech.
“The Culture Secretary has gone too far. It is unacceptable. The Brazilian Government should remove him urgently from office,” president of the Chamber of Deputies Rodrigo Maia Tweeted Friday.
The Workers’ Party of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, also took aim at the culture minister, saying he had gone beyond the limits and plagiarized exact quotes from Goebbels’ Nazi discourse.
“It is Bolsonarista fascism encouraging even more hate. That can not go unpunished,” the opposition party said.
“How can a Brazilian, the result of one of the most diverse communities in the world, pose as a Nazi?” the center-right Brazilian Social Democracy wondered on social media.
The Socialism and Liberty Party said: “Using Nazi rhetoric and Goebbels discourse may seem pathetic, but in reality, it is dangerous and violent.”
“Let us not normalize the absurdities of that crowd ruling Brazil today,” adding that in Germany “Alvim would be imprisoned.”
After the wave of criticism, the culture secretary defended himself on his Facebook account, describing the choice of words as a “rhetorical coincidence.”
“It was just a phrase from my speech in which there was a rhetorical coincidence. I did not quote anyone. And the fragment speaks of a heroic art deeply linked to the aspirations of the people,” Alvim said.
“There is nothing wrong with the phrase,” he continued, although he admitted that “the entire speech was based on a nationalist ideal for Brazilian art.”
The right-wing president of Brazil, Bolsonaro, appointed Alvim as the National Secretary of Culture last November.
The arrival of Alvim, a theater director, to the secretariat sparked criticism from the country’s arts sector.
The playwright has repeatedly accused Brazilian artists of “violently defaming” Bolsonaro.