Brazil’s new Women, Family and Human Rights Minister Damares Alves is under fire for lying about her academic credentials, which she now says were granted by a Christian church, not a university.
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Alves is a controversial personality who describes herself as an evangelical pastor and a lawyer with a master's degree in education and constitutional and family rights.
But the Brazilian news outlet Folha de Sao Paulo couldn’t find her credentials in the Lattes platform, a site maintained by the National Council of Scientific and Technological Development, and so asked the minister where she got her degree.
“In contrast with traditional education, in which you need to go to university to get a master's degree, in Christian churches you call ‘master’ anyone who teaches the Bible,” Alves answered.
She then went on to quote Ephesians 4:11 to justify her position: “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.
“I spent two years of my life teaching future professors in seminars at Bible schools and the children’s ministry… On many of those occassions I paraphrased that passage, stimulating the present professors to remember how we, as pastors, are masters within the Christian perspective,” she explained.
Just on Jan. 14, her assistant answered the same question by saying that Alves was not registered at Lattes.
Now, her personal website only states that Alves studied at the San Carlos Faculty of Law and at the pedagogy program at the Pio Decimo Faculty.
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Alves was appointed head of a new superministry by far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, which has under its supervision the National Foundation of the Indigenous (FUNAI), a key institution to safeguard Indigenous territory.
FUNAI and other Indigenous leaders have spoken and protested against Alves because of her opposition to Indigenous reserves and support toward private companies’ interests in their territory.
“Alves is a person who has historically persecuted the Indigenous peoples, who preaches religious fundamentalism, hoping to impose the Christian religion to the Indigenous peoples of Brazil,” said Karai Popygua, a Guarani leader at the Jaragua Indigenous territory, in a video promoting their cause.
She is also known for her conservative stance and her infamous phrase “the boy dresses in blue, the girl in pink.”
Currently she’s also facing accusations of stealing a six-year-old girl from an Indigenous family in Mato Grosso, whom she adopted and raised as her daughter.
According to testimonies cited by the magazine Epoca, Alves entered the Kamayura village saying she was a missionary and told the family she would take the girl to the dentist in the city and send her back later. The family didn’t know she was taking her forever and the minister never formalized the adoption.
Alves has denied any wrongdoing regarding this case and says the girl, now 20, is visited regularly by her biological family.
She is one of the founders of ‘Atini - Voz Pela Vida’ (Voice for Life), a group dedicated to adopting and relocating Indigenous children from communities and educate them with evangelical christianity.