Brazil has seen its second culture minister ousted in three months. Telenovela star Regina Duarte was appointed Special Secretary of Culture by the country’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, in March, replacing Roberto Alvim, a theatre director fired for paraphrasing Joseph Goebbels in a government-sanctioned video.
Duarte was the subject of a disastrous TV interview on 7 May. Responding to criticism that the government had not done enough to help the arts during the COVID-19 pandemic, Duarte told CNN Brasil, “Man, I’m sorry, humanity doesn’t stop dying. If you talk about life on the side, there is death,” continuing, “Stalin, how many deaths? Hitler, how many deaths?… I don’t want to drag a cemetery of the dead on my back, I’m light, I’m alive, we’re alive. Let’s stay alive. Why look back? Those who drag coffin cords don’t live.” She added the media should not concern itself so much with the death rate. “I think it has a morbidity right now. COVID-19 is bringing unbearable morbidity.”
Since 28 February there have been as estimated 271,885 cases of the new coronavirus in Brazil, and 17,983 deaths. That number includes several prominent figures in the arts, among them artist Abraham Palatnik, musicians Aldir Blanc and Moraes Moreira, the carnival legend Dona Neném and writers Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza, Sérgio Sant’Anna and Rubem Fonseca.
Museums and galleries remain closed throughout Brazil.
Duarte’s downplaying of the pandemic aligns with Bolsonaro’s own response, in which the president has repeatedly dismissed the seriousness of the virus and flouted lockdown rules imposed by state governors. While Bolsonaro has been criticised for not visiting any hospitals or meeting frontline medical workers, he did find time last week to take a jet ski to a floating barbeque party.
In a video posted to his Twitter account, Bolsonaro said Duarte would instead head up Cinemateca Brasileira in São Paulo, one of the largest film libraries in Latin America, charged with preserving the country’s cinema culture.