Seeking to clean up an office embroiled in scandal, Brazil’s new culture secretary started her tenure Wednesday by firing six top officials, including one who said rock music pushes people toward Satanism.
Now on his fifth culture secretary in just over a year, far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has tapped Regina Duarte, a soap opera actress, to restore calm at what has become one of the most controversial posts in his administration.
She wasted no time: the day she started the job, Brazil’s official diary announced the firing of Dante Mantovani, head of the state-run National Foundation of the Arts (Funarte).
Mantovani, an orchestra conductor and self-declared believer in a flat Earth, had gained notoriety over a YouTube video in which he said, “Rock music leads to drugs, which leads to sex, which leads to the abortion industry, which leads to something much worse, which is Satanism.”
Like the other five officials sacked by Duarte, he is considered a disciple of Bolsonaro’s ideological guru, Olavo de Carvalho, a writer and former astrologer.
Carvalho, an eminence grise who lives in the United States, had warned Duarte via social media Tuesday not to purge his proteges.
But the actress reminded Bolsonaro at her swearing-in ceremony that he had promised her “carte blanche” as secretary.
“My goal is to bring peace and permanent dialogue with the cultural sector,” she said.
Bolsonaro has drawn backlash from the artistic community for demoting the culture portfolio from a ministry to a secretariat, slashing state support for the arts and allegedly censoring artists on subjects such as gay rights.
Duarte, 73, takes over from theater director Roberto Alvim, who was forced to resign in January after he paraphrased a speech by Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels.
Known as “Brazil’s Sweetheart” for a lifetime of roles on famous prime-time soaps, she has openly advertised her right-of-center politics.
But many in the cultural community are hoping she will take a more conciliatory approach than her predecessors.