In Protest of Brazil’s Culture Ministry Dissolution Artists Occupy Its Buildings
Artists are outraged by the cuts imposed by the new regime.
Brazil’s cultural elite are protesting the country’s move to subsume its Culture Ministry into the Education Ministry. Activists around the country objected to the new rule by occupying ministry buildings in 11 regional capitals.
Buildings in Brasilia, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Belo Horizonte, as well as seven other state capitals, were packed with hundreds of artists, filmmakers, musicians, and members of major cultural organizations, AFP reports.
Chants of “Out Temer!” filled the iconic Gustao Capanema Palace in Rio. At the Teatro Oficina in São Paulo, a building known for its role in the resistance movement during the years of Brazil’s military junta, dissenters adapted the popular song “Baile de Favela,” to sound their protest.
The government decision to cut the ministries from 32 to 23 came at the behest of interim president Michel Temer in a bid to “streamline a bloated government,” according to AFP. Formerly vice president, Temer became acting president last week, following president Dilma Rousseff’s suspension for an impeachment trial.
On May 12, Rousseff was suspended on charges of manipulating government accounts, bringing an end to 13 years of the leftist Worker’s Party in power. She faces a Senate trial that could take up to six months. Should it result in a two-thirds majority vote against her, it will conclude with her removal from power.
Despite Rousseff’s low approval ratings, Brazil’s artistic community chiefly opposes her impeachment. However, Temer, who stands to replace Rousseff permanently should she get the ax, has even worse approval ratings. The market-oriented centrist from the PMDB Party has come under fire for his conservative leanings and suspected involvement in the Petrobras oil scandal.
On Wednesday, Temer named Marcelo Calero as the new culture secretary. Calero’s appointment is fraught with controversy since Temer had promised to appoint a female culture secretary in a measure to balance his all-male cabinet.
Brazilian director Kleber Mendonça Filho spoke out against the new government at the Cannes film festival, where his movie “Aquarius” is competing for the Palme D’Or. According to AFP, Filho claims the move has caused a “dramatic divide” in the country and objects to the government’s “extinguishing” of the culture ministry as well as its gender bias.
Government support of the arts has never been strong in Brazil, so this latest move has been a blow to the artistic community. Artists across the country are endeavoring to sound their protest—from a series of films objecting Rousseff’s impeachment to swathes of activist art such as that currently featured in the exhibition of pro-democracy posters at the Centro Cultural in São Paulo.
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