Bolsonaro fires Brazil's controversial education minister

Brazil's president has appointed a new education minister after Ricardo Velez announced his resignation. Velez had sparked controversy with his radical positions, including a pledge to fight "cultural Marxism."

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Monday fired his education minister, Ricardo Velez, an ultraconservative who had sparked fury over a range of controversial measures.

Velez will be replaced by Abraham Weintraub, an economist, who was working at the University of Sao Paolo. 

The country's new government has already suffered political scandals and a public row with congressional leaders over the president's signature pension reform policy.

What had Ricardo Velez proposed?

  • Rewriting school textbooks to describe the 1964-85 post-coup military dictatorship as a "democratic regime of force." 
  • Asking schools to film students singing the national anthem in front of the Brazilian flag.
  • Promising to stamp out "cultural Marxism" and gender-identity "ideology."
  • Velez was forced to backtrack on all of his proposed measures before he was fired.

Read more: Brazil: Thousands protest against 1964 coup commemoration

Jair Bolsonaro: Brazil's far-right president in quotes

'Straight to the dictatorship'

Bolsonaro has criticized the very democracy that won him the presidency. In a 1999 TV interview, he said he would shut down Congress if he ever became president. "There is no doubt: I would perform a coup on the same day. And I'm sure that at least 90 percent of the population would celebrate and applaud because [Congress] doesn't work," Bolsonaro said. "Let's go straight to the dictatorship."

Jair Bolsonaro: Brazil's far-right president in quotes

'Rape'

Four years ago, Bolsonaro engaged in a heated debate with Brazilian lawmaker Maria do Rosario. During the debate, he said: "I wouldn't rape you because you don't deserve it." Shortly after, he defended himself, saying he wasn't a rapist. However, he added that if he were a rapist, he wouldn't touch do Rosario because she is "ugly."

Jair Bolsonaro: Brazil's far-right president in quotes

'Moment of weakness'

In a speech at Rio de Janeiro's Hebraica Club in April 2017, Bolsonaro spoke about his family. "I have five children. Four are men, and then in a moment of weakness the fifth came out a girl," he said.

Jair Bolsonaro: Brazil's far-right president in quotes

'Prefer my son to die'

LGBT activists have long railed against Bolsonaro for his homophobic stance. But in a 2011 Playboy magazine interview, Bolsonaro made things personal, saying he "would be incapable of loving a homosexual son … I would prefer my son to die in an accident than show up with a mustachioed man." In May 2002, he said that if he saw "two men kissing each other on the street" he would "beat them up."

Jair Bolsonaro: Brazil's far-right president in quotes

'No means to control their offspring'

Bolsonaro has often belittled impoverished communities. But in 2008, he took things a step further by suggesting poor people should be prevented from bearing children. Birth control "methods have to be provided for those who, unfortunately, are ignorant and have no means to control their offspring because we [as the upper middle class] are able to control ours."

In the line of fire: Velez was part of Bolsonaro's cabinet when he took power on January 1 and is the second minister to be forced of the troubled administration in less than four months. In February, Gustavo Bebianno was fired from the general secretariat of the presidency over suspected improper campaign financing.

1946 coup: Bolsonaro has described the military junta — during which generals ousted then-President Joao Goulart and installed a military dictatorship for 21 years — as "glorious." He been quoted as saying that "the error of the dictatorship was that it tortured but did not kill." More than 430 people were killed or disappeared during the period. 

Plunging support: Bolsonaro, who marks 100 days in office on Wednesday, has been campaigning to promote a raft of ultraconservative ideas and values. The president's approval ratings have plunged since January following his administration's rows and scandals. 
Read more: Opinion: Jair Bolsonaro celebrates Brazil's dictatorship 

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