In search of lost time, culture moves throughout Brazil in order to rebuild itself after going through the darkest period of public management in the sector. After the record passage of seven holders in four years by the Special Secretariat of Culture, the highest body of cultural policy in the country, it is possible to say that, yes, there was success in mortally wounding himself and paralyzing the national ecosystem of culture. 

During this period, nothing was effectively done in the sector. The focus has always been regressive, paralyzing or obstructive. Part of the management time was spent with denialist or innocuous proposals, which forced civil society to articulate to combat them – in which public money, qualified effort was spent and space for propositional articulation was lost. 

For example: in the midst of a pandemic, the extremist military police officer who responded to the Secretariat for the Promotion and Incentive to Culture, André Porciuncula, edited an ordinance prohibiting the requirement of a passport for vaccination against covid-19 to attend cultural events financed with resources from the Rouanet Law . Opposing the public health measures, the Special Secretariat for Culture forced the Justice to examine and overthrow this bizarre factoid.

In December 2021, the then secretary Mário Frias set a goal for the analysis of old accounts by the Culture Secretariat – a daily average of analysis of six projects, and a monthly average of 120 projects. The release of new fundraising would necessarily be conditioned to the analysis of these old accounts – a veiled stoppage, since there were no specialized personnel available for the task, which forced Congress and the Federal Audit Court (TCU) to intercede and overthrow the restriction. 

Then, the Rouanet Law, modified by ordinances, started to demand an unrealistic fee to finance presentations by artists (R$ 3 thousand) and to prohibit the same sponsor from financing consecrated events of the cultural calendar – which led to important events, such as the São Paulo International Film Festival, to stop using public resources in its realization. 

Facade of the Pinacoteca de São Paulo. Photo: Christiane Ruffato

A certain climate of political animosity also created a veiled boycott of established institutions. The Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, for example, was only authorized to raise R$ 27 million to carry out its 2023 annual plan last November, which puts its entire museological and administrative action project at risk. In this year of 2022, engulfed by the electoral agenda of almost the entire Bolsonarist “politburo” in the sector, the tax waiver law could end the year with a third of what was raised last year. 

“The entire federal public structure linked to culture is bankrupt, without resources, without structure. Just to give you an idea: there has been an 2016% reduction in resources since 85. We jumped from R$241 million to R$36 million. It's almost a joke, if it weren't in bad taste,” said Juca Ferreira, one of the coordinators of the elected government's Transition Group. The amount Ferreira refers to is the direct budget of the Secretary of Culture, without the amounts related to tax incentives and cultural funds – but, to give you an idea, the budget of the Secretary of Culture of the city of São Paulo for 2023 is of 611 million. 

More than showing the collapse of federal action in the sector, the number shown by Ferreira illustrates how the Brazilian State has given up stimulating an entire area that is crucial for national development. Deliberately. To do so, he resorted to boycott devices or counterproductive and aggressive initiatives – some secretaries of the period, as revealed by the press, even started to dispatch people with weapons in public offices, to intimidate civil servants. 

A diagnosis led by filmmaker Joel Zito Araújo, who deals with the issue of communication in the governmental transition, revealed that the recent period has been one of censorship, moral harassment and persecution of cultural workers, of militarization of public companies, of voluntary submission and uncriticism. 

In the Historical Heritage, the purge of professionals with a technical profile (to accommodate, for example, an extremist religious pastor like Tassos Lycurgo, exonerated in August) may have resulted in a very difficult problem to equate in the near future. In a single ordinance alone, on December 8, 2022, the Minister of Tourism, Carlos Alberto Gomes de Brito, appointed 39 civil servants to positions in the various superintendences of the National Historical and Artistic Heritage Institute (Iphan) cross country. This has been repeated in all cultural organizations since the November 30 election. 

What makes a government decide that it needs to replace servers 20 days before their end? At the National Film Agency (Ancine), which manages the country's audiovisual policy, a new chief auditor was appointed one year before the previous mandate expired, which points to an evident strategy of occupying key positions in the public machine and ensure survival of the old regime. 

The question of IPHAN, today, is mainly one of rigging. There are at least 12 regional superintendents who do not have a technical profile, they were chosen by their director, Larissa Peixoto, a furious Bolsonarist militant, for their affinity with the ideology of the governing group. This is the case of Olav Antonio Schrader, monarchist who occupies the position of Superintendent of IPHAN in Rio de Janeiro. Schrader's goal, among others, was to make historical museums bunkers for the interests of the old monarchists of the imperial family, and this was revealed in the episode of the cataloging of the Afro-Brazilian collection Nosso Sagrado, at the Museum of the Republic, in December last year. 

Museum of the Republic, in Rio de Janeiro. Photo: Henrique Carvalho / Ibram

In addition to the disrespect for the sector, the bellicose and arrogant attitude, the cultural core of the Bolsonaro government also specialized in debauchery. On July 1st of this year, in one of the most respected and solid institutions of the cultural system in Brazil, the National Library Foundation, a bizarre ceremony was held: the delivery of the Order of Merit of the Book commendation to a convict of Justice, the former deputy Daniel Silveira, from the same party as the president, and who had been the subject of a presidential pardon so as not to go to jail, and fellow parliamentarian Hélio Lopes (Hélio Negão), known primarily as the pirate parrot of his ideological boss. With such an event, sarcastically held on World Libraries Day, the institution was pushing decades of tradition and rigor into the gutter. 

The inaction of the National Library Foundation is the result of the effort of its president, a monarchist militant, Luiz Carlos Ramiro Junior, who brags about receiving visits from citizens such as Luiz Philippe from Orléans and Bragança (accompanied by the superintendent of IPHAN/RJ, Olav Schrader, also a monarchist), investigated in the fake news inquiry at the STF, preceded by the following text on the FBN website: “Generous, cultured and active in favor of the restoration of Brazil, Luiz Phillippe has honored the nobility of his family and represented the values ​​that Brazilian society claims, of freedom, protection of life, security, prosperity, sovereignty and love of neighbor”. Restoration of Brazil, in plain English, means the return of the monarchy to power. 

The institutional gangrene caused by this confusion of roles is widespread. With 24 museums in its structure, the Instituto Brasileiro de Museus (Ibram, the federal government agency that deals with national policy on museums), has been progressively losing resources since the Bolsonaro government began. In 2018, Ibram spent BRL 136 million of its budget. Last year, it executed BRL 127 million and, in this year of 2022, until November, it executed only BRL 118 million reais (out of BRL 160 million forecast), according to data from the Transparency Portal🇧🇷 If this level is maintained, Ibram will have lost a quarter of its resources. 

During this period in which Pedro Mastrobuono has been presiding over Ibram (since the beginning of 2020, when he was appointed by then-secretary Regina Duarte, and continuing throughout the Mario Frias period), the republican integrity of federal museums has not gone untouched. For ideological reasons, Ibram ignored the result of the selection process for choosing the new director of the National Historical Museum, released in September 2021, disobeying the provisions of the Statute of Museums and Decree-Law No. 8124. First place, Luciana Conrado Martins, was never nominated and, to replace her, the government “invited” the third-placed, Doris Couto, to take over the position. Doris refused. 

During the electoral campaign, Ibram's management ordered that a public works sign containing the name of the candidate at the time be covered with black fabric.
opposition, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, from a wall in the hall of the National History Museum. It turns out that the plaque referred to Lula's last period in the presidency, therefore, a fact prior to the 2022 elections, something that configured an attempt at historical revisionism. 

Lawyer Pedro Machado, linked to collectors and the market, is also a member of the National Council and Cultural Policy (Ministry of Tourism). His governance of Ibram was questioned at the Federal Court of Accounts (TCU) last year, through a complaint about the implementation of the Action Plan provided for in the National Sectorial Plan for Museums. The TCU demands the achievement of the goals set by Ibram, especially the census of federal museums that it had committed to carry out. Mastrobuono asked for another year to carry out the demands and, in November, the TCU agreed. 

An institution linked to the structure of another ministry, the Museu Paraense Emilio Goeldi, the second largest Museum of Natural History in the country, now under the tutelage of the Museum of Science and Technology, which had no direction, hoped that this decision would be passed on to the next government. But, in November, the museum woke up to the unexpected enthronement of a supporter of the Bolsonaro government in its top management position, another appointment of opportunity. 

National Historical Museum. Photo: Jaime Acioli

The Palmares Foundation, managed with “cruelty refinements”, according to Juca Ferreira, by former president Sérgio Camargo, acted in favor of “total demoralization, an attempt to erase what was achieved in terms of recognition of the Africans who came enslaved to the Brazil”, according to the culture coordinator of the government transition group. To corroborate this diagnosis, on November 10, Sérgio Camargo was condemned by the Public Ethics Commission of the Presidency for “moral harassment, discrimination against religions, against leaders of African religions and undue manifestations on social networks”. 

But the problem is that punishing these culture war battering rams does not solve the main problem: the scrapping of institutions. Deputy Áurea Carolina (PSOL-MG), who participated in an inspection at the Palmares Cultural Foundation, was shocked by what she saw. “Palmares currently has very few effective employees, in a context of precarious work and worker illness. The building that houses the headquarters is in poor sanitary conditions, accessibility and infrastructure, not to mention the maintenance of the collection”, she said. This situation spreads across the various bodies linked to the former Ministry of Culture, which should be recomposed in the new government. 

At the National Archives, the situation, following the management of Ricardo Borba D'Água Almeida Braga (subject of a lawsuit by the Federal Public Prosecutor's Office asking him to be removed from office for failing to comply with legal requirements) will only be known after a comprehensive audit. in the documents – to verify what survived the purge for ideological purposes. Borba D'Água's passage through the Archive was condemned in a manifesto by 54 entities in the archive sector, for being oblivious to the subject and the delicacy of the material entrusted to him. At Funarte, Tamoio Athayde Marcondes, sixth president in four years, leaves with the balance of having interdicted a fundamental historical collection of the institution in downtown Rio, but without the resolution of its destiny. 

The issue of transparency is one of the most serious and will require a fine-tooth comb from the new managers. Currently, on the website of the National Film Agency (Ancine), the latest data on the execution of the Audiovisual Sectorial Fund are for 2019. Ancine launches public notices at the same time that it experiences a blockage of the budget part destined to pay the Fund's operating banks Audiovisual Sector, which, in practice, prevents investment actions. Ancine was evaluated as the second worst public management of an agency in 2021 by the Integrated Index of Governance and Public Management 2021 (IGG21), a
indicator of the Federal Court of Accounts (TCU). The numbers that place it in this position are evident: the number of Brazilian films with more than 500 viewers dropped from seven to zero in four years. The total audience for Brazilian films fell from 23,8 million to 911 thousand. And, in 2021, no Brazilian film appeared among the top 20 box office of the year. 

But the bloodletting of culture takes on an even greater drama if one examines its specificities. The audiovisual industry, for example, has a long cycle in its production chain – it takes years between initial development and final distribution. Each artistic language has its specific production time, and it is not just the restoration of the State's investment and stimulus power that will restore their strength. 

Reviving the nation's cultural fabric will be a Herculean task, of coordinated efforts and reinvigoration of enthusiasm, pride, confidence in the power of culture. The new government will have to review and improve the incentive laws and make a real effort to hire qualified collaborators, specialized professionals for Brazilian cultural institutions.

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