Brazil’s latest pick for education minister has been forced to resign after just five days following reports that he repeatedly lied about his qualifications, the most recent in a series of embarrassing blows for the far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro.
Carlos Decotelli, an economist and former navy man, stepped down yesterday after Brazil’s Getúlio Vargas Foundation business school publicly refuted his claims he had worked there as a teacher.
It proved to be the final straw for Bolsonaro, after the same school had accused Decotelli of plagiarism on his master’s dissertation, and an Argentinian and a German university disproved that he had completed a PhD and a postdoctorate.
In an interview with CNN Brasil, Decotelli attributed his resignation to “fake facts” divulged by the school.
Decotelli’s appointment had apparently pleased Bolsonaro’s military allies. But the UOL news site reported that he even exaggerated about the length and prestige of his naval career. His resignation was widely ridiculed on social media.
“Will Decotelli put on his curriculum that he was education minister?” Matheus Leone, a political scientist, questioned in a tweet.
“It’s shameful,” said Marcos Castro, a geography professor at Federal University of Amazonas in Manaus.
Other users questioned why Decotelli – who would have been Bolsonaro’s first black minister – was forced out while other prominent white ministers alleged to have lied about their qualifications remained in government.
His resignation comes a fortnight after the former education minister Abraham Weintraub, the target of investigations for racism and online defamatory attacks, quit and flew to Miami, which many saw as a move to avoid charges in Brazil.
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“Despite everything, I found Decotelli’s term better than Weintraub’s,” tweeted JP Gadêlha, a reality TV star.
A court is investigating how Weintraub, commonly described as “Brazil’s worst-ever minister” by critics, managed to enter the country and circumvent Covid-19 quarantine restrictions.
Education experts meanwhile lamented Decotelli’s stint as another blow to Brazil’s education ministry which they say has been “paralyzed” since Bolsonaro took office in January 2019.
“We are a year and a half without an education minister,” said Priscila Cruz, co-founder and executive president of civil society organization All for Education. “It’s unforgivable.”