SAO PAULO – Brazilian President-elect Jair Bolsonaro has appointed an ultraconservative philosopher to serve as education minister, apparently in a bow to his evangelical Christian backers.
The selection of Ricardo Velez Rodriguez was announced Thursday night after the far-right leader’s core backers criticized a more moderate candidate for the job.
Rodriguez previously taught in military academies and currently teaches at the Federal University of Ouro Preto. He has written more than 30 books, mostly with anti-left outlooks.
The philosopher said in a letter published on Friday that he wants to work “in the context of preservation of values that are dear to the Brazilian society, which is, in essence, conservative and against experiences that intend to ignore traditional values connected to the preservation of the family and the humanist morality.”
Colombian-born Rodriguez has written on his blog that Brazilians should “remember and celebrate” the 1964 military coup that put the South American country in a military dictatorship until 1985. He also has also said that corruption would not be endemic in Brazil if a monarchy had been put in place.
Bolsonaro, who takes office on Jan. 1, has said he would like to promote a law forbidding “Marxist indoctrination” and gender-biased teachings at public schools. Rodriguez has expressed support for such a move, unlike another candidate being considered for the job: Mozart Ramos, a former state education secretary.
Critics say such an initiative would roll back freedom of expression.
But Bolsonaro’s religious base insists public school teachers are trying to influence pupils against conservative values.
Congressman Sostenes Cavalcanti, one of the leaders of the powerful evangelical caucus in Brazil’s Congress, visited Bolsonaro’s team as soon as Ramos’ name was floated by allies of Bolsonaro as a possible education pick.
“Our lawmakers reject that, and they reject it very much,” said Cavalcanti, who is also a pastor. “Our president can get any other cabinet position wrong if he likes. But not the education ministry, that is of ideological importance for us.”