Sandro Bondi, Italy’s Controversial Minister of Culture Steps Down

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He will be replaced by Minister of Agriculture and long-time ally of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Giancarlo Galan.

ROME – Sandro Bondi, Italy’s controversial minister of culture, finally stepped down from his job Wednesday and will be replaced by Minister of Agriculture Giancarlo Galan.

Bondi’s departure has been whispered about for weeks, and earlier this month he said he wanted to quit his job. Bondi has been in hot water since January when he faced a parliamentary confidence vote for the way his ministry handled maintenance at the ancient ruins of Pompeii.

But Bondi is best known for his statements regarding the cinema industry. Last year, Bondi grabbed headlines when he criticized auteur and Venice Film Festival jury head Quentin Tarantino for the prizes the jury handed out and he said he believed the government should have the final say over the jury selection for the 67-year-old Venice festival.

Earlier, Bondi boycotted the Cannes and Locarno Film Festivals because they screened films critical of the government, and he said he would develop new criteria for determining which film projects where worthy of state funding, a move many in the industry said smacked of censorship.

The 54-year-old Galan, from the city of Padua, near Venice, is a long-time ally of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, taking part in his first government in 1994. But he does not have significant ties to cinema, television, or other cultural areas.

Already, the way seems to be paved for Galan to have certain advantages. The latest of many controversies Bondi was forced to deal with was a budget controversy that cut the budget for the FUS, the main cultural fund, in half. That had a wide ripple effect, putting the future of the storied Istituto Luce in jeopardy, among other repercussions.

But after Galan’s appointment, the government announced that the FUS would return to 2010’s budget level of €428 million ($599 million), paid for by a new tax of up to €0.02 per liter of gasoline or diesel fuel.