BRASÍLIA – It was the culmination of one of the most tumultuous weeks in Jair Bolsonaro’s presidency. A number of arrests and court orders targeting supporters of the Brazilian leader made the crisis capital the country’s coronavirus caseload exceeds one million.
Then on Friday, Abraham Weintraub, one of the most ferocious lieutenant presidents, rushed out to the United States just days after resigning as minister of education. When he left, he signaled his concern over a Supreme Court investigation targeting him and other officials suspected of organizing a campaign of defamation and online disinformation.
His hasty departure is a dramatic illustration of how the Bolsonaro government was fought and floated in the midst of increasing criminal and legislative investigations and public health disasters which were partly due to the president’s arrogant attitude.
Weintraub hopes to take on a senior role at the World Bank in the United States. He entered the country by avoiding travel restrictions imposed to limit the spread of the corona virus. Exactly how unclear.
Shortly before boarding a flight to Miami on Friday night, Mr. Weintraub said he planned to leave Brazil “as soon as possible.” He wrote in a Twitter post: “I DO NOT WANT TO MEET!” adding, “Leave me alone, don’t provoke me!”
His brother, Arthur Weintraub, advisor to the president, write on Twitter Saturday morning, “My brother has made it to the United States.”
There is widespread speculation and much anger over Mr Weintraub’s departure when an escalating scandal choked Bolsonaro’s government. One question inherent in that trip was whether Mr. Weintraub used his diplomatic passport and privileges improperly to travel to the United States even when he was no longer a government minister.
Shismênia Oliveira, a spokesman for the Ministry of Education, said that Weintraub had traveled on commercial flights and paid the trainer’s own fees. He said the purpose of his trip was to “be resolved” for senior positions at the World Bank which had yet to be confirmed.
Ms. Oliveira will not say whether Mr Weintraub used a diplomatic passport. Cabinet members in Brazil issue diplomatic passports, and many who visit the United States use visas for government officials on official business trips. The government usually pays travel costs for such trips.
Carrier of such a diplomatic passport freed from travel restrictions The White House took effect on May 24. This prohibits the entry of most foreigners who have spent time in Brazil recently.
The State Department said in a statement emailed that they did not comment on individual visa cases, and a spokesman for the United States Customs and Border Protection did not respond to questions about Mr. acceptance. Weintraub to the country.
Opposition lawmakers said Saturday that it was Weintraub departure equals obstruction of justice. They also said that if he did use a diplomatic passport, it would represent an abuse of power because Mr. Weintraub had left the cabinet before he traveled.
“Obviously this is done with the president’s approval,” said Fabiano Contarato, a left senator who asked for all of Mr. Weintraub’s passports to be confiscated while awaiting the completion of a criminal investigation. “This is just the latest abuse of power. Damage is getting worse and can not be repaired day by day. “
Randolfe Rodrigues, another opposition senator, called Mr. Weintraub “An international fugitive” who was supposed to be deported to Brazil and imprisoned.
Mr.’s office Bolsonaro did not respond to questions sent by e-mail about Mr. Trip. Weintraub, and attempts to contact the former minister to provide comments were unsuccessful.
Mr Weintraub, one of the most aggressive figures in the Bolsonaro administration, has become irritated in the increasingly tense relations between the president and the Brazilian Supreme Court.
The court opened an investigation in April allegations that the president is trying to replace the director of the federal police to protect relatives and friends who are ensnared in a criminal investigation.
The high court is investigating separately one of the sons of Mr. Bolsonaro and several allied MPs were suspicious of organizing online defamation and information disinformation campaigns.
In his election campaign, Mr. Bolsonaro benefit from a well-organized disinformation effort relying on social media platforms and text messaging applications. Critics say it continues, with supporters spreading false information and attacking state institutions, including insulting the justices who oppose his policies.
Mr Weintraub, who is one of Bolsonaro’s loyalists who are being investigated in this disinformation case, has increased tensions between the president and the judiciary. During a cabinet meeting at the end of April, he angrily called the Supreme Court judges “bastards” who should be locked up.
On Wednesday The court issued a ruling allow the disinformation case to move forward with Mr. Weintraub as a target.
Mr Weintraub then released a video on Thursday announcing he was leaving the ministry. Standing next to Mr. Bolsonaro, he said he had concluded that he would be safer abroad and thanked the president for nominating him for a senior role. representing Brazil and several other countries on the board of directors of the World Bank Group.
“My wife, my children and even us Capitu dog will be able to have security, something that I am very worried about, “Mr Weintraub said in clear references to Supreme Court cases.
Many Brazilian scholars, activists and artists signed an open letter last week calling Mr Weintraub unfit for World Bank work. They point to his humiliation of the affirmative action program and statements which undermine indigenous peoples and Chinese people.
The Supreme Court opened an inquiry into racism allegations in early April after Weintraub posted a message on Twitter that mocked Chinese accents when they spoke foreign languages. Racism is a crime in Brazil.
Chinese Embassy in Brazil responded to the post angrily, calling it “very racist.”
Lilia Schwarcz, a historian and writer who teaches at the University of São Paulo, said the Weintraub story was the latest blow to Brazil’s reputation abroad. This country has been strongly condemned by the president cavalier handling of the coronavirus crisis and its environmental policies, which have caused sharp increase in deforestation on Amazon.
“The hasty departure from Brazil shows he is afraid of being detained by the Supreme Court,” Ms Schwarcz, who was among the signatories of an open letter from scholars, activists and artists, said about Mr Weintraub. “All this has turned Brazil into a kind of pariah.”
Tabata Amaral, a federal lawmaker who is an expert in education policy, said that Weintraub left a bleak legacy as a minister. He said he undermined initiatives initiated under the previous administration to reduce illiteracy and expand access to higher education for historically marginalized communities, including people of African descent and indigenous populations.
“He is a minister who spends his time attacking people, being racist and xenophobic on social media,” he said. “He uses the most important ministry in the country to wage a cultural war and undermine important initiatives.”
Letícia Casado reports from Brasília, Manuela Andreoni from Rio de Janeiro and Ernesto Londoño from Bogotá, Colombia.
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