Brazil soap star agrees to be government’s culture secretary

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Former soap opera star Regina Duarte agreed Wednesday to become Brazil’s culture secretary, replacing the previous secretary who was fired for giving a speech that used language similar to that of Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels.

Following a meeting with President Jair Bolsonaro, Duarte shouted to reporters that she had accepted his offer of the job.

Duarte, well-known from her television roles in the 1970s and ’80s, is entering a heated culture war between Brazil’s artistic community and the far-right Bolsonaro. Breaking from the traditionally leftist celebrity class in Brazil, she has long supported one of the country’s center-right parties and backed Bolsonaro’s 2018 election campaign.

“She has a responsibility to the artists’ community, to which she belongs, but she is standing on rocks that are about to get slammed by the ocean,” said Sergio Augusto, a culture critic and columnist for the newspaper Estadao. “It will be impossible for her to go against the government’s wishes and do what she thinks is right. If she tries to be politically independent, she will be fired.”

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The relatively low-level Cabinet post has been embroiled in controversy during Bolsonaro’s little over a year in the presidency, starting when he downgraded the Culture Ministry to a secretariat inside another ministry.

Duarte is the fourth person to head the secretariat in that time.

Bolsonaro’s first culture secretary, Henrique Pires, left after the government cut funding for LGBT-themed films, accusing the administration of discrimination.

Duarte’s predecessor, Roberto Alvim, sparked outrage earlier this month for a speech promoting “heroic” and “national” Brazilian art in which he appeared to draw some language from a speech made by Goebbels in 1933.

The official between Pires and Alvim, former banking executive Ricardo Braga, held the post for just two months before being sent to work in the Education Ministry.

A central point of contention between artists and right-wing activists is the Rouanet Law, which gives grants for cinema, theater, exhibitions and other cultural projects. Bolsonaro has called the law a “disgrace” and reduced the maximum allotment to a fraction of the prior value.

Duarte’s production company, Regina Duarte, received a $330,000 grant from the initiative.

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