BRASILIA (Reuters) -Brazil’s Education Minister Milton Ribeiro resigned on Monday following allegations of corruption in the awarding of ministry funds to municipal districts, according to an announcement in the country’s official gazette.
Ribeiro has been facing political pressure after local newspapers reported that two pastors had allegedly gained preferential treatment for educational funding for their municipal districts in return for bribes.
Ribeiro denied he had done anything illegal and said the “suspicions of irregular acts” must be investigated. “I am resigning to make it clear I want the investigation to be thorough and unbiased,” he said in a statement.
Ribeiro, a Presbyterian pastor, will be the third education minister to leave the position during the administration of President Jair Bolsonaro.
Bolsonaro’s party, the conservative Liberal Party (PL), pressed the president to dismiss the minister before the scandal damaged his re-election campaign, analyst Andre Cesar said.
Bolsonaro, who won office vowing to clean up Brazilian politics, is trailing former leftist president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva according to early polls ahead of the October election.
“They are trying to control the damage as quickly as possible before this grows, because new facts are emerging everyday in the media,” said Cesar, at political consultancy Hold Assessoria Legislativa.
The Estado de S.Paulo newspaper quoted mayors as saying that the pastors had asked them to buy Bibles with a photo of the minister in return for access to educational funds, and one had asked for a gold bar as a bribe.
(Reporting by Carolina Pulice, Peter Frontini and Anthony Boadle; editing Cynthia Osterman and Sandra Maler)