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Brazil’s Little Sweetheart Is Now the Country’s Culture Secretary

Actress Regina Duarte gets a hug from President Jair Bolsonaro - Carolina Antunes/PR

An actress known for decades of work in soap operas said on Wednesday she has agreed to become Brazil’s secretary for culture. Regina Duarte, 72, made the announcement to reporters as she left the presidential palace in Brasília, Brazil’s capital city.

In taking the job offer from President Jair Bolsonaro, Duarte will replace a man fired over a speech that included lines seeming to quote Adolf Hitler’s propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels.

“Yes, I accepted,” Duarte said of the new position. Duarte’s name has been circulating for some time, but she kept mum after visiting the culture secretariat headquarters last week in Brasília.

Culture used to have its own full-fledged ministry, but Bolsonaro, who has been called the “Trump of the tropics” for his brash style and derogatory comments about women and minorities, downgraded it to a secretariat at the same level as sports after coming to power a year ago.

Duarte has starred in many Brazilian soap operas over the course of a TV career spanning five decades. The actress got the epithet of Brazil’s Little Sweetheart. She will be the fourth person to hold the job since Bolsonaro took office.

She is an unabashed conservative in a country where most artists are leftist. Duarte took part in Bolsonaro rallies during the 2018 presidential campaign and once said in a speech she was with him “body and soul.”

But many in the arts world expect that given her 50 year career as a performer she will be more conciliatory on culture than her predecessor, Roberto Alvim.

Alvim was fired this month over a speech in which he appeared to quote Goebbels, saying art in Brazil over the next decade would be “heroic and national.”

“In the current situation of dismantling of our culture, I think Regina Duarte can help. She is rightwing but not Nazi,” film producer Paula Lavigne said over the weekend.

“Yes, I accepted the president’s invitation, but now we’ll have the pre-wedding proceedings,” Duarte quipped, after meeting the president. The date when she will be officially appointed is yet to be disclosed. She was joined by Reverend Jane Silva, who was named special deputy secretary of culture.

Bolsonaro also confirmed Duarte’s decision without setting deadlines for her future duties. “Everything’s been worked out. She’s settling personal issues. There are no deadlines,” he declared after arriving at the Alvorada residence, after his meeting with the actress.

Regina Duarte was invited by the president to take the helm of the country’s Special Secretariat of Culture after he ousted playwright Roberto Alvim on January 17.

Last week, she came to Brasília to visit the secretariat’s headquarters and to talk to the president about whether she was indeed to be appointed for the post.

Bolsonaro said Regina Duarte will be free to assemble her team. “She will be given the chance to show how culture is to be made in Brazil. She is experienced in everything she’ll be doing.

“She needs good leaders by her side, has the post to do that, and will be allowed to freely change whomever she wants to change. Regina Duarte as secretary] is bound to prove successful, Bolsonaro declared.

Duarte was born on February 5, 1947 and is one of Brazil’s most famous actresses, boasting dozens of soap operas in her 55-year-long career. In order to take the seat as special secretary, she will have to suspend her contract with TV Globo, the country’s number one television broadcaster.

Mercopress/ABr

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