June 24, 2020 / 11:23 PM / 8 days ago

World Bank staff object to Brazilian nominee over racial comments

BRASILIA (Reuters) - The association representing staff at the World Bank on Wednesday asked that Brazil’s nomination of Abraham Weintraub to be executive director be reviewed over his past racial comments and other concerns, according to a letter seen by Reuters.

FILE PHOTO: Brazil's Education Minister Abraham Weintraub attends a session at the plenary of the Chamber of Deputies in Brasilia, Brazil May 15, 2019. REUTERS/Adriano Machado

Weintraub, one of the loudest right-wing ideologues in President Jair Bolsonaro’s government, resigned as education minister last week, saying he would join the World Bank.

He became a target of a Supreme Court probe following the publication of a videotape of a cabinet meeting in which he called its judges “bums” who should be jailed.

World Bank employees called on the bank’s ethics committee to suspend Weintraub’s nomination while reviewing whether his past statements were in line with the code of conduct for directors. Weintraub could not be immediately reached for comment.

The World Bank employees cited Weintraub’s comments on Twitter that mocked Chinese accents, blamed China for COVID-19, and accused China of seeking to dominate the world.

Among other objections, the letter pointed to Weintraub’s statements against the protection of minorities and his last act as minister to revoke some race-based quotas at universities.

In response to the staff’s letter, the chair of the board’s ethics committee, Guenther Schoenleitner, said the World Bank would not tolerate racist remarks by anyone serving there, including executive directors.

However, in his reply seen by Reuters, Schoenleitner said neither the bank’s management nor the ethics committee had any influence on the nomination and election of an executive director, who would be subject to the board’s code after becoming a member.

Brazil has a majority of the voting power in a group of nine countries that must fill a vacant position and so Weintraub could be elected to serve as executive director until the end of the current term on Oct. 31.

Weintraub is under investigation by Brazil’s federal audit court on questions of whether he traveled to the United States on a diplomatic passport after leaving office.

Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Writing by Jake Spring; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Leslie Adler

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