From March 1985, when it was created, until its 33 years of existence, in 2019, the Ministry of Culture (MinC) lived years in which it tried to balance between the fight for budget, the attempt to assert itself as a relevant portfolio for the national administration and the political difficulties that, at one time or another, were accentuated and threatened the policies of the sector.
But it was during the Bolsonaro government, precisely in January of the ex-captain’s first year of command, that the MinC experienced its worst terror, when it was formally extinguished as a portfolio to become a secretariat. The measure, made official in an order by the President of the Republic that marked his first ministerial reform, demoted the ministry to a status that took it to the center of one of the main controversies at that time.
“From when you downgrade a certain area of ministry status to the secretariat, it signals that it will have less importance in the definition of public policies and that it will also necessarily have a smaller part of the budget”, summarizes political scientist Rafael Moreira, who recently published the book The End of the Ministry of Culture: Reflections on Cultural Policies in the Post-MinC Erain partnership with journalist Lincoln Spada.
in conversation with the Brazil de factoMoreira reflected on the effects of dismantling and highlighted, among other things, that he sees the recreation of the MinC as a “starting point” for the future federal government, “whoever” the president of the Republic may be. Check out the full interview below.
Brasil de Fato: In January 2019, the Ministry of Culture lost its status as a ministry and was converted into a special secretariat for Culture, now linked to the Ministry of Tourism. To what extent has this changed the role of the folder?
Raphael Moreira: From the moment you downgrade a certain area from the status of a ministry to that of a secretariat, you signal to the people of the country in general that that area becomes less important in the definition of public policies and that it will also necessarily count with a smaller part of the budget.
The person who will be in charge of that portfolio has less bargaining power internally when it comes to defining the direction of the country’s budget. This unfolds in the other bodies linked to the Ministry of Culture.
It is important to remember that MinC was not just a ministry. It already had its entire structure, its public policies that had been being played for years. A series of agencies and secretariats were also linked to the ministry, which also undergo this dismantling process. So, just to name a few, you have Iphan [Instituto do Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico Nacional]has Ibram [Instituto Brasileiro de Museus]has the Palmares Cultural Foundation.
Does this change in organizational and political structure contradict constitutional precepts? The Constitution says that the State must guarantee to everyone not only access to the sources of national culture, but must also support and encourage the appreciation and dissemination of cultural manifestations…
Yup. The question of culture is defined in the Constitution as a right of the people. This is even consolidated from the 1988 Constitution itself. It is worth remembering that the MinC was created from the democratic transition.
The country was going through a dictatorship that had lasted 21 years and, as part of the agreements of the democratic alliance that started the elected governments from then on, even though the first one was indirectly elected by an electoral college [de Tancredo Neves, que faleceu antes de assumir e a consequente gestão de José Sarney] the idea was consolidated that a ministry should be created where one could bring together all public policies country’s cultures.
We already had some local and state experiences, from the Secretary of Culture, but until then there was no ministry that could bring together all public policies and also, in a way, give representation to artists. We had very important figures there who passed through the ministry.
I think it’s important to point this out. Francisco Weffort, Celso Furtado, Juca Ferreira and Gilberto Gil, the most remembered, are people who, in addition to representing the aspirations of artists, of the makers of culture in our country, sought to carry out policies that precisely gave voice or channeled this constitutional provision of that culture is everyone’s right.
So, from the moment you demote a ministry to the status of secretariat, you are signaling to the country that what is provided for in its own Constitution, from then on, becomes less important for that particular government.
Does culture, then, when it assumes this more robust institutional form, as is the case of a ministry, have more strength to leverage this movement, this incentive that the Constitution requires the State to give to the area?
Exactly. It will have more strength because, from the ministry, you will have a structure in which you will have public servants who are directly linked to this sector and also with artists, who, in a way, will start to participate of the process of elaborating public policies linked to that specific sector, and it is through a ministry that you manage to consolidate these policies, you manage to make them start to have a certain continuity, regardless of alternation of government, of alternation of power between different parties, etc.
We have a series of policies, such as the Rounet Law itself – which is always one of the most remembered – that were implemented back in the day and that obviously go through a process of improvement, regardless of the government that is in power, but which are consolidated, which recognize the importance of having policies such as the Rounet Law, but also many others.
We have the cultural points, the arts squares, in short, a series of cultural policies that end up consolidating from the existence of a ministry.
Taking advantage of what you mentioned about the Rouanet Law, we are currently experiencing a great controversy regarding this public policy, which was created some time ago and today seems to be the target of a kind of campaign of rhetorical traps that try to weaken the objective of the policy. Is it possible to conclude that the end of an institution like the MinC may encourage this movement of defamation of the Rouanet Law?
It encourages, yes. I just think it is important to point out that the Rouanet Law was criticized even before the current government, and it was itself criticized in both right and left governments because it often ends up leading to a concentration of resources in the Center-South region.
So, there were criticisms, but the point is: from the moment you criticize a particular public policy, it is not to destroy it, but to improve it. When Bolsonaro participates in the 2018 elections, he has two “big” proposals for Culture. The first of them is precisely the destruction of the MinC and the second, in a way, is the destruction of the Rouanet Law, and it did.
Now, regarding your question, we even point out in the book that the extinction of the MinC, the persecution that artists suffer and some laws, such as the Rouanet Law, ends up unfolding in other spheres of power. So, just to quote one of the interviewees, Mateus Sartori, who was Secretary of Culture for some administrations in the interior of São Paulo, points out in his interview [no livro] this persecution that artists had at the municipal level in his city.
They had to hold a series of meetings with businessmen in the city, makers of culture because there was already a municipal incentive law, but, from the time Bolsonaro wins the election and comes with this rhetoric of persecution of the law, businessmen stayed until with the back foot to continue sponsoring cultural events in the city itself.
So, they had to say “look, the law we have here in the city is municipal, it’s not the Rouanet Law, but regardless, you shouldn’t fear the Rouanet Law”. So, just for people to have the dimension of what this rhetoric of persecution of both artists and MinC and some laws ends up having in our daily lives…
From the moment you have a president of the Republic who persecutes the Rouanet Law, this persecution unfolds at other levels of government and this directly affects the offer of cultural activities that we have in our municipality.
The MinC’s journey in our fragile post-military dictatorship democracy lasted 33 years. Interestingly, the portfolio was created on the same day that the end of the regime is considered, March 15, 1985. And then, later, comes the Bolsonaro government and puts an end to the ministry right at the beginning of the first year of management. Can we say that the valorization of cultural policies clearly comes with democratic development, at the same time that authoritarian governments seem to dehydrate this area?
Yup. We even point out something in the book that relates what is happening in our country with what is happening in other countries. Around the world, leaders from the extreme right camp have ascended to power through democratic means and, from the moment they come to power, they start to undermine democracy from within.
This is one of the main lines of research in political science in recent years. And a good part of the people who ascend along these paths start to adopt a posture of explicit persecution of their culture, the culture of the country, even for the role it plays. Culture makes us reflect, makes us pass a message to a wider audience that even a book or scientific article cannot pass, even because of the reach that this type of production has.
A song, rap lyrics, play, a nation of maracatu, has the ability to generate critical reflection in people about what is happening in the country that a book, many times, cannot accomplish.
So, I think there is, yes, a relationship between the rise of these right-wing governments and the persecution that the culture has suffered. We also point out, in addition to this reflection on what is happening around the world, that this process was already underway even before the Bolsonaro government. It is worth remembering that we already had there, in 2017 or 2016, if not mistakenly, that exhibition that had to be closed in Porto Alegre because there was a series of extreme right-wing demonstrations, had the [agora] former mayor of Rio de Janeiro Marcelo Crivella trying to remove a comic book that had a kiss being exhibited at the Bienal do Rio de Janeiro.
So, there was already a series of ongoing persecutions with people who work in the area of culture and the extinction of the MinC by the Bolsonaro government was the height of the process, the bottom of the well. There has never been such a big, explicit persecution of the makers of culture in the country.
After you have pored over what happened with the MinC, after reflecting on it and interviewing several people from the network working at Cultura, what do you bring as a conclusion in the research that you could share with us?
We point out that whoever assumes the Presidency of the Republic next year will find it in a scorched earth condition when it comes to public policies. Of course, this will also unfold in other policy areas. Environmental policy was completely destroyed, the MEC [Ministério da Educação] It’s not even talked about, anyway, but whoever takes over will get a scorched earth, and the reconstruction of policies will necessarily involve the reconstruction of the MinC.
This will end up being the first step that will necessarily have to be taken. But, of course, this is just the first step, not a point of arrival. But the recreation of ministry is indeed a necessary starting point.
Editing: Rodrigo Durao Coelho