Bolsonaro’s First Black Minister Resigns Before Taking Office

Brazil’s recently-appointed education minister resigned after President Jair Bolsonaro became aware of inconsistencies in his resume.

The academic credentials of Carlos Alberto Decotelli, who would be Bolsonaro’s first Black cabinet member, came under close scrutiny when one of the universities he said he’d graduated from denied having awarded him a degree. He was appointed by the president last week but, amid the controversy, his swearing in ceremony was twice delayed and he never took office.

Bolsonaro withdrew his nomination in a decree published in the official gazette on Wednesday. He hasn’t picked a replacement yet. Decotelli had handed his resignation letter to the president late on Tuesday, after initially trying to remain on the job, local press reported.

Decotelli would be the third education minister of the current administration and his departure is another setback for a president struggling with high cabinet turnover. Since April, a popular former anti-corruption judge quit, one health minister was fired and another resigned. To fill the vacancies, Bolsonaro has increasingly relied on the military. Decotelli himself is a naval reserve officer who was set to be the 11th member of Brazil’s armed forces assuming a senior cabinet job. He was supposed to replace Abraham Weintraub, one of the president’s most vocal supporters, who had stepped down amid clashes with Supreme Court justices.

Decotelli’s appointment had been well received by analysts as he offered assurances he would avoid the political fights of his predecessor. Weintraub had investigations authorized by the top court for allegedly using racist language to refer to the Chinese and after accusations of spreading fake news.

Resume Inconsistencies

Decotelli came under fire after the dean of University of Rosario said on Twitter the incoming minister hadn’t received a PhD degree from the Argentine institution. Later, Germany’s University of Wuppertal also denied that he had completed a post-graduation program after a stint there.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Decotelli said he didn’t receive certifications from those universities due to “operational details” and corrected his resume.

But his situation became unsustainable on Tuesday when newspapers reported that, contrary to what his resume said, Decotelli hadn’t been a full-time professor at Brazil’s Fundacao Getulio Vargas business school.

It’s not the first time that a senior Brazilian official has been accused of lying about their academic credentials. Enviroment Minister Ricardo Salles was initially introduced as a lawyer trained at Yale University, an institution he never attended. Pastor Damares Alves, minister of Women, Family and Human Rights, said she had a masters degree in education but later backtracked, saying “all those who interpret the Bible are masters.”

Former President Dilma Rousseff also said her resume was wrong and that she had not concluded her masters and PhD in economics at Brazil’s Universidade de Campinas. She said she finished the courses but didn’t have time to defend a thesis.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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