RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s latest education minister reportedly offered his resignation Tuesday just days after his appointment, creating a new headache for the embattled leader as he struggles to start a new chapter at the ministry and shore up flagging support.
Economist Carlos Alberto Decotelli, facing a slew of allegations that he embellished his academic credentials, tendered his resignation in the afternoon, Brazilian media said, including a report in the newspaper Folha de S.Paulo citing Decotelli himself. The press offices of Brazil’s presidency and education ministry didn’t respond to The Associated Press’ requests to comment on whether Bolsonaro accepted.
But late Monday, Bolsonaro said in a Facebook posting: “Due to curricular inadequacies the professor (Decotelli) is facing all kinds of delegitimization."
The president announced on social media Thursday that Decotelli would take over the education ministry, and Bolsonaro highlighted degrees the professor had from universities in Brazil and abroad. Soon enough, three of those institutions began disavowing the achievements of Decotelli, who was yet to be sworn in.
In the most recent case, the Getulio Vargas Foundation said Tuesday the would-be minister was neither a researcher nor a professor at the Brazilian university as had been reflected in Decotelli's resume shared by the government. Rather, he had acted as a collaborating professor in post-graduate courses, the school said in a statement.
“The professor acted only in courses of continued education, in programs for executive development and not as a professor in any of the FGV's schools,” the statement said.
Decotelli also had included on his resume a doctorate from the University of Rosario in Argentina, but the rector of that institution said on Twitter last week that he hadn’t finished his studies.
The nominee also claimed a post-doctoral degree from the University of Wuppertal in Germany. Local television network Globo cited a statement from the university saying Decotelli obtained no such degree.
Decotelli's claimed credentials and abrupt resignation create discomfort for Bolsonaro as he seeks to ease tensions with other government branches and reverse rising disapproval numbers prompted by the spiraling COVID-19 pandemic.
The president took office in 2019 with promises to appoint ministers with technical expertise rather than dole out positions to curry political favor. Opponents have railed on the education ministry for shortcomings in that regard, with the first minister fired after four months and the second minister frequently criticized for focusing more on waging culture wars than coordinating educational policy.
Decotelli had been slated to become Bolsonaro's first Black minister, replacing Abraham Weintraub, who is one of the targets of an investigation into a network of people that allegedly spreads defamatory and threatening social media posts about Supreme Court justices. Weintraub in a Cabinet meeting on April 22 called the members of the top court “bums” and said he supported jailing them, according to video of the meeting released last month.
The Supreme Court voted June 17 to keep Weintraub under investigation and days later he resigned his Cabinet post and traveled to the U.S., where the Brazilian government intends for him to assume a position at the World Bank.
Bolsonaro last week met with potential candidates to helm the education ministry, which commands one of the largest ministerial budgets.