Bolsonarista pastor Silas Malafaia came out in defense of former Minister of Education Milton Ribeiro, who had his arrest decreed in the early hours of the morning on suspicion of involvement in a corruption scheme at the MEC. In a video posted on social media on the night of this Wednesday 22, Malafaia said he saw ‘strange facts’ in Ribeiro’s detention by the Federal Police.
“There are some strange things in these prisons. It was the minister who denounced to the CGU [Controladoria-Geral da União] who suspected the involvement of pastors in corruption. It was him, Milton!”, defends Malafaia in an excerpt.
The Bolsonarista’s statement, in fact, is distorted. The first suspicions of corruption in the MEC arise in August 2021 from internal complaints by lawyers serving the Attorney General’s Office who provided legal advice to the ministry.
Some of these suspicions, at the time, were leaked to the press and, from them, new scandals were revealed. The CGU only forwarded a complaint to the PF and the Public Prosecutor’s Office seven months after the preliminary investigation began, amid an avalanche of disclosures of suspicions involving Ribeiro and the pastors. Ribeiro, in turn, maintained a close relationship with the pastors even after the first disclosures. At the time, he even said that he kept the agendas to ‘not arouse suspicion’. A version contradicted by records of the former minister’s own meetings with lobbyists.
“There is another fact: if they are arrested on suspicion of corruption, what about the mayors? No suspect mayor? Corrupted who? The PF did not ask for the arrest of mayors, how is that? Strange isn’t it?”, then asks the pastor in Milton’s defense.
Despite making the defense, the religious leader also tried to unlink his name from that of Ribeiro and Gilmar Santos, the pastor arrested in this Wednesday’s operation suspected of organizing the bribe scheme with Education funds. As he defended in the video, he and the evangelical bench, to which he is linked, would not have any connection with the appointment of the former minister to the position.
“If there’s anyone who has the morals to talk about it, it’s me. I asked for in-depth investigation at the time. I asked the evangelical bench for the minister’s departure to be investigated in depth”, he said at the beginning of the publication.
Later, he reinforces: “Neither Damares [Alves] nor Milton were nominations from evangelical pastors or the evangelical bench. It was the president himself. We report it and we want serious investigation, no matter who it hurts.”
Malafaia, one of Jair Bolsonaro’s most influential advisers, also took advantage of this Wednesday’s publication to defend his ally. As he said in the video, the president, despite being responsible for appointing Ribeiro and pointed out in the minister’s audio as guarantor of the bribery scheme at the MEC, could not be classified as corrupt. To defend the former captain, he made several attacks on the PT, the former president Lula and the Brazilian press.
“To want to compare the corruption of the Lula government with the Bolsonaro government can only be a joke. Look at bandit and sectarian journalism, seven stories in O Globo about the subject. The icing on the cake: Bolsonaro loses his anti-corruption speech. It can only be a joke!” he barked.
“What is Bolsonaro involved in? He was framed in what?”, he questioned after the attacks on Lula.