Minister of Culture resigns after criticizing Museum of Memory

SANTIAGO – Minister of Culture Mauricio Rojas was involved in a wide range scandal due to his criticism on the Museum of Memory and Human Rights. Actors, artists and journalists promoted a campaign on social media that resulted in Rojas’s resignation. Rojas’ comments were brought to light this Saturday, and they defined the museum as a farce, or a “montage.”

After comments on the Memory Museum made by Culture minister Mauricio Rojas were unveiled, national outrage erupted. The book “Diálogo de Conversos” written by current foreign minister Roberto Ampuero, contains Rojas’ comments, which artists defined as an insult to Chilean art. The outrage started after the comments made by the now former minister Rojas were discovered. Many Chilean artists and journalists joined in a destitution campaign against Rojas that resulted in his resignation.

The importance of the Museum of Memory and Human Rights for most Chileans, lies on its dedication to commemorate victims of human rights violations during Augusto Pinochet’s term in power (1973-1990). It was inaugurated in 2010 by former president Michelle Bachelet, who was victim of torture during Pinochet’s office herself.

In an extract of the book, written by Ampuero in 2015, the now former Minister of Culture Mauricio Rojas describes the museum as a farce. “More than a museum, it is a farce whose purpose is to astonish the spectators and keep them from reasoning, throughout a shameless and misleading use of a national tragedy, which directly affected many people,” quotes the extract.

Petition to resign

Mauricio Rojas defended himself during the weekend, when he assured that his words don’t represent his thoughts anymore. Still, the minister fell into a public scandal that resulted in his resignation as minister. A group composed by Chilean artists and journalists, started a petition for Rojas’s resignation. The petition was posted up on the blog Change.org. Among the signing members, there were the theater directors Alfredo Castro and Luis Alarcón, the Oscar Award winner journalist Faride Zerán, the Chilean writer Diamela Eltit, and Ricardo Brodsky, who was the director of the Memory Museum.

According to the statement, the retraction of Min. Rojas was just a cynical attempt to save his seat at the ministry. Besides, the communication highlighted that a culture minister that damages the symbolic value of the memory as a representation of history, shouldn’t be considered as able to develop the charge. Even more if the financing of the Museum of Memory and Human Rights depends on that ministry.

Raúl Zurita, National Literature Prize winner, reacted negatively about Rojas’s comments. Through a press released, Zurita remarked “regarding to the hallucinatory and offensive declarations made by the Culture minister, in which he qualifies the Museum of Memory as being a farce, declarations that hurt the feelings of Chileans, its disappeared, its executed, its tortured, and its exiled. I call everyone not to participate in any instance in which that person (Rojas) is involved.”

New case of nepotism

As successor, archeologist Consuelo Valdés Chadwick assumed the charge of Culture Minister, after Rojas’s renouncement. The new Minister of Culture is a distant relative of interior minister Andrés Chadwick, as they have a great grandfather in common. Therefore, she also has family links with President Piñera. The situation could result in another accusation of nepotism against Piñera, as he had been severely criticized for nominating his brother Pablo Piñera as the Chilean ambassador to Argentina, a measure that was repealed after protests from the opposition.

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