Former Brazilian minister elected to board of World Bank

Brazil's Education Minister Abraham Weintraub gestures during a session at the plenary of the Chamber of Deputies in Brasilia, Brazil

Abraham Weintraub, a former Brazilian education minister, has been elected as an executive director of the World Bank, according to a statement by the Bank, whose staff had raised concerns about Weintraub’s past racial comments.

Weintraub is expected to fill a vacant position on the board in the first week of August and will serve until the current term ends on Oct. 31, when the position will re-open for election, the Bank said in the statement here on its website.

It said Weintraub was elected by the constituency representing Brazil, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Panama, the Philippines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago, but gave no details on the vote tally. Brazil has a majority of the voting power in the group of nine countries.

The previous executive director resigned in December.

The association representing staff at the World Bank last month asked that Brazil’s nomination of Weintraub to be executive director be reviewed over comments on Twitter in which Weintraub mocked Chinese accents, blamed China for COVID-19, and accused China of seeking to dominate the world.

Weintraub resigned as education minister in June and said he was joining the World Bank, after he became the target of a Supreme Court probe for calling its judges “bums” who should be jailed. Brazil’s federal audit court is now investigating whether he inappropriately used a diplomatic passport to travel to the United States, skirting quarantine rules.

World Bank employees in June urged the bank’s ethics committee to suspend Weintraub’s nomination while reviewing whether his statements were in line with a 28-page code of conduct for directors, which expressly requires respect for diversity.

In response to the staff’s letter, the chair of the board’s ethics committee, Guenther Schoenleitner, had said the World Bank had no influence over the appointment of executive directors, but would not tolerate racist remarks by anyone serving at the institution.

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