Brazil’s culture secretary, Roberto Alvim has been fired after he appeared to paraphrase the Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels in an online video to promote a national arts prize.
“Brazilian art in the next decade will be heroic and national,” said Alvim, to the music from Wagner’s Lohengrin, said to be Hitler’s favourite opera, with a portrait of the far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, and a Brazilian flag in the background.
“It will be endowed with a great capacity for emotional involvement and will be equally imperative, since it is deeply linked to the urgent aspirations of our people, or else it will be nothing,” he continued.
The words are strikingly similar to those Hitler’s minister reportedly said to a group of theatre managers and directors in 1933: “German art in the next decade will be heroic, steely but romantic, factual without sentimentality; it will be nationalistic with a great depth of feeling; it will be binding and it will unite, or it will cease to exist.”
On Facebook, Alvim merely classed the phrase as a “rhetorical coincidence”.
Since taking office last year, Bolsonaro has been repeatedly criticized by opponents for pushing a conservative Christian cultural agenda while cutting funding to arts and cinema projects.
Bolsonaro’s culture war allies have lashed out at what they call “cultural Marxism” and condemned everything from climate change to feminism.
The latest effort, launched in the video by culture secretary Alvim, comes in the form of a $20m reais ($4.8m) prize fund for theatre, opera, art and music exhibitions, with conservative and religious themes prioritized.
“Virtues of faith, loyalty, self-sacrifice and the fight against evil will be raised to the sacred territory of works of art,” said Alvim.
The video provoked widespread outrage across the political spectrum and calls for the secretary’s immediate dismissal.
“When culture becomes sick, the people become sick, too,” Alvim said in the video.
“The secretary of culture has crossed the line. It is unacceptable. The Brazilian government should urgently remove him from office,” tweeted Rodrigo Maia, lower house speaker of the rightwing Democrats party, who is third in line to the presidency.
On Friday afternoon, Bolsonaro tweeted that Alvim had been dismissed. “An unfortunate statement, though apologetic, made it untenable for him to stay on,” he said.
The night the video was recorded, Bolsonaro had said of Alvim: “Now we have a real secretary of culture.”
Alvim, a born-again Christian, only took the job in November last year, and had previously been criticised for suggesting rock music encourages abortion and Satanism.