From Rio de Janeiro
Last March, the far-right president Jair Bolsonaro referred to his then Minister of Education, the Presbyterian Pastor Milton Ribeirothe target of accusations of corruption. He said that he fully trusted his honesty. And in an outburst he released a phrase that remained marked in the memory of millions of Brazilians: “I put my face in the fire for him.”
Overcoming a traditional saying – “I put my hand in the fire” – the president wanted, in this way, to declare his irreducible trust in the suspect. That he, by the way, days later he asked me to leave office.
Well: yesterday morning Milton Ribeiro was arrested by the Federal Police. And with him, another self-proclaimed pastor, Gilmar Santos, a close friend of the presidential family. The also evangelist Arilton Moura was wanted by the police.
The accusations against Ribeiro were based on statements by mayors who, in order to release budgets for their municipalities, were “invited” to buy thousands of bibles with the minister’s photo. It was about resources National Fund for Educational Development.
At least one mayor recounted the request of one of the self-styled pastors embedded in the Ministry of Education: to release the approved budget, it would be necessary to deliver no less than ten thousand dollars in gold coins.
None of this convinced Bolsonaro to confirm what was more than evident: a group of evangelists transformed the Ministry of Education into a robust business balcony.
The imprisonment of Milton Ribeiro means something more than a heavy blow against Bolsonaro’s speech, assuring that there is no corruption in his government. It is, in fact, a latent threat: when he was a minister, Ribeiro assured that he received the pastors at the direct request of the president. The same pastors involved in corruption.
If you now reiterate what you declared, the focus of suspicion will fall directly on the president and he will enter the large role of accusations that he will have to answer in Justice when his presidential term ends and the immunity that the position guarantees him is annulled.
The closest allies of Bolsonaro admitted, with all the letters, that the Milton Ribeiro prison has been “a disaster”.
The first reaction of the president was to affirm, in a timid way, that he continues to trust his former minister, but that the police will know what to do. The second was to prevent journalists from entering an event to which they had been invited.