Bolsonaro comes under fire after launching nationalist project

Bolsonaro comes under fire after launching nationalist project President Jair Bolsonaro Photo:Andressa Anholete / Getty Images/

Brazil’s government has drawn criticism after launching a project that aims to revamp the country’s arts scene, with a focus on nationalism and religion. The project is part of the far-right administration’s answer to what it sees as decades of leftist hegemony in the cultural sphere – from art to education and family.

Though cash-strapped, the government of President Jair Bolsonaro will spend $4.9 million (€4.4m) to foment the production of literature, theatre, opera, music and other arts. It was announced by Bolsonaro, Education Minister Abraham Weintraub and culture secretary Roberto Alvim from a library of the official presidential residence in a live Facebook video.

Alvim, the driving force behind the initiative, is a born-again Christian who found renewed faith while recovering from cancer. He delivered a separate message about the initiative using a phrase local paper O Globo compared to a speech by Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels; Alvim said on Facebook last Wednesday that it was merely a “rhetorical coincidence”. The president of Brazil’s lower house said on Twitter the video went beyond the pale, and that Bolsonaro should remove Alvim from his position immediately.


While the amount to be spent is a drop in the bucket compared to other arts funding, the project jibes with the government’s efforts to overturn what Bolsonaro calls “cultural Marxism” that some of his ministers say is undermining society’s morals. The leftist Workers’ Party governed Brazil for 13 years until 2016.

“When culture becomes sick, the people become sick, too,” Alvim said in the video beside Bolsonaro. “Brazilian culture was deliberately sickened during the recent decades. Culture is the basis of the homeland.”

More than 57 million people – 55% of the voters in 2018’s election – embraced Bolsonaro’s anti-leftist campaign, in which he promised to fight corruption, violence and leftist ideology with the same energy. The government will stimulate film projects that focus on Brazil’s independence and historical figures, and be aligned with conservative values, Alvim said.