Nazi Leader Paraphrasing Costs Brazil Culture Secretary His Job




(Bloomberg) -- Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro fired the country's culture secretary after he paraphrased notorious Nazi politician Joseph Goebbels in a video that stirred outrage in the nation.

Roberto Alvim said that Brazilian art over the next decade will be "heroic" or "it will be nothing," similarly to remarks made by Goebbels decades ago, according to a video posted on social networks early on Friday. Within hours, the term "Goebbels" became one of the top trending topics on Twitter in Brazil, and lawmakers including Senate President Davi Alcolumbre, who is Jewish, called for Alvim's immediate removal.

Music by Richard Wagner, who was Hitler's favorite composer, plays in the background of the video posted by the culture secretary. An official photo of Bolsonaro looms over him, while a cross and a Brazilian flag can also be seen.

In a subsequent interview with a local radio station, Alvim denied that he was a Nazi and said he was unaware that he had copied part of a speech made by Goebbels. "It was an unfortunate rhetorical coincidence," he said. Alvim also said in a post on his Facebook page that "there is nothing wrong with the sentence."

In a statement dismissing Alvim, Bolsonaro said that "unfortunate" remarks made it impossible for the secretary to remain in the job. "I reiterate our repudiation of totalitarian and genocidal ideologies," Bolsonaro said in the statement. "We also express our total and unrestricted support to the Jewish community."

The remarks represent the latest source of public uproar under the administration of President Jair Bolsonaro, who rose to the nation's top job in part due to his non-conventional views. Bolsonaro has maintained a loyal support base, many of whom criticize the political left for being overly sensitive.

Read More: Oscar-Nominated Netflix Film Is Slammed by Brazil's Bolsonaro

While lacking status as a ministry, Brazil's culture secretary oversees the nation's culture and entertainment and provides millions of reais in financing to projects in those areas. In the local radio interview later Friday, Alvim said that he had explained the misunderstanding to Bolsonaro, and that his explanation was accepted by the president.

Hitler Confidant

Goebbels was a government minister and close confidant of Adolf Hitler. He was known for his virulent antisemitism and calls for extermination of Jewish people, as well as for his strong oratory skills.

Alvim's remarks are unacceptable, according to a statement from Brazil's Israeli confederation, known as Conib. "A person with those thoughts should not command the culture of our country and should be removed from the post immediately," the statement said.

In recent months, Bolsonaro has drawn international scrutiny by suggesting that NGOs were to blame for Amazon rainforest fires and making sarcastic comments about the wife of French President Emmanuel Macron. Before assuming the presidency, he downplayed Brazil's history of slavery and made offensive comments against groups including women.

(Updats with firing of Brazil's top culture official)

To contact the reporter on this story: Simone Iglesias in Brasília at spiglesias@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Walter Brandimarte at wbrandimarte@bloomberg.net, ;Juan Pablo Spinetto at jspinetto@bloomberg.net, Matthew Malinowski

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