Mauricio Rojas, Chile's newly appointed Minister of Cultures, Arts, and Patrimony, is facing heavy criticism after a series of negative comments he made about the country's "Museo de la Memoria" (Museum of Memory) were published in the La Tercera journal Saturday.
In a book published in 2015, Rojas, who replaced former journalist Alejandra Perez as Minister Thursday, called the museum "a montage which purpose, undoubtedly achieved, is to shock the spectator, leave him astonished, to prevent him from reasoning." Adding that the museum represents a "shameless and liar use of a national tragedy that touched so many of us so hard and directly."
The Museum of Memory was commissioned by former President Michelle Bachelet, following a mandate from the country's truth commission and recommendations given in the Rettig Report "to account for human rights violations committed during the dictatorship. In this direction, it is configured as an open meeting with the memory space, which seeks to respect and promote human rights," as museum states on their social media accounts.
Rojas has been a close ally of current Chilean President Sebastian Piñeira in both his presidencies, first between 2010-2014 as a speechwriter, and now as a minister in the 2018-2022 administration. But during his youth, he says he was part of the Revolutionary Left-wing Movement (MIR), and in 1973 when the United States-backed military dictatorship of Pinochet began he was exiled to Sweden. Rojas has since changed his political leanings and defines himself as a right-wing militant, and made loathsome comments about rights for the LGBT community and reproductive rights.
In an interview with CNN, in 2016, Rojas restated his comments about the Museum of Memory saying, "that is something done so that people do not think, to stun you. There is no explanation on how we get to where we arrived," adding that it is a "museum on the left-wing, to tell a false version of the history of Chile."
The president of the lower chamber, and granddaughter of Socialist President Salvador Allende, who was ousted by the dictatorship of Pinochet in 1973, said that it is regrettable the now minister had made these comments about the Museum of Memory.
In a statement, Poet Raul Zurita called for a boycott of any public events the Rojas was carded to attend, saying that he "has made declarations that hurt the most endearing of the people of Chile, their disappeared, their shots, their tortured, their exiled."
"This Museum fulfills a public responsibility, which must be supported by the government, by the Congress and by the country as a whole; and that is what we are doing, fulfilling the mandate of the Truth Commissions to guarantee the "Never Again," said Francisco Estevez, executive director of the Memory Museum.
The historic leader and former Secretary-general of the MIR party, Andres Pascual Allende, said Sunday that he never knew Rojas, "he wasn't a MIR militant," he said. Which contradicts Rojas' version, in which he has openly used this association to explain his path from liberalism and the right-wing.