The Brazilian government under far-right president Jair Bolsonaro has imposed new restrictions on arts funding for states that impose lockdown measures.
André Porciuncula Alay Esteves, a national culture secretary, published the decree last week making clear that proposals under the Rouanet Law, which provides funding to cultural projects on a case-by-case basis, will only be considered if they involve in-person interactions and come from regions “where there is no restriction on circulation, curfew, lockdown or other actions that prevent the realization of the project.”
States trying to curb the spread of COVID-19 will not be eligible for support.
The measure will be in effect for 15 days, after which time it can be “extended or suspended, depending on whether or not the restrictive measures are maintained,” according to the ordinance.
Representatives from Brazil’s Ministry of Culture did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The move is widely seen as a gesture of retaliation by Bolsonaro, who has been vocal in his opposition to social distancing, masks, vaccines, and other preventative measures, despite scientific evidence of their effectiveness. “Enough fussing and whining,” he told a crowd at a public event last week. “How much longer will you stay at home and close everything? No one can stand it anymore. We regret the deaths, again, but we need a solution.”
Jandira Feghali, a federal deputy, moved to abolish the ordinance in the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies last week. “In an authoritarian and unjustified way, the measure threatens culture, health and the Constitution,” she wrote. “We understand that this is unacceptable and does not deserve to prosper, which is why I request the support of the noble parliamentarians for the abolition of the said ordinance ”
Bolsonaro has been widely criticized for his handling of the pandemic. Brazil passed 250,000 COVID-related deaths last month, a grisly milestone that puts the country behind only the U.S.