Close ally of Brazil's Bolsonaro leaves education ministry

A close ally of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has left his job as education minister

SAO PAULO -- Brazilian Education Minister Abraham Weintraub, a close ally of President Jair Bolsonaro, gave up his Cabinet post Thursday, saying in a video that he is leaving to become one of the directors at the World Bank.

The move came a day after Brazil’s top court decided to keep investigating Weintraub in a case involving Bolsonaro supporters and purported threats, insults and falsehoods leveled at Supreme Court justices and their families.

Weintraub was one of the leaders of the administration’s far-right wing. One of his last actions was to end an affirmative action policy that granted more entry to Brazilian blacks and indigenous people in post-graduate courses. He previously cut funding to programs and courses in the humanities because he considers the social sciences too far to the left.

“At this moment I don’t want to discuss the reasons for my departure,” Weintraub said in the video shared by the presidential office, next to a distraught-looking Bolsonaro. He said the new job will make his family safer, without giving further details.

“Keeping Weintraub in the government was very costly in the middle of the crisis,” said Paulo Calmon, a political science professor at the University of Brasilia. “He had a position of contempt and confrontation with Congress and the Supreme Court, which is a problem as the president seeks to forge alliances.”

Bolsonaro said in the video that it was “a hard moment” to see Weintraub leave. Since the coronavirus pandemic began, he has already lost two health ministers because of disagreements, as well as his justice minister, Sérgio Moro, who is hailed by many Brazilians as an anti-corruption hero.

Weintraub was Bolsonaro’s second education minister. He took over in April 2019, when another far-right official, Ricardo Vélez Rodríguez, was fired.

In a video of a Cabinet meeting released May 22, Weintraub made clear that his focus was confronting enemies in the capital rather than coordinating education policy, said Cláudia Costin, director of a center at the Getulio Vargas University that focuses on education.

Costin said Weintraub also took little action during the coronavirus pandemic to ensure children could continue receiving education while under lockdowns.

Costin, a former education secretary for the city of Rio de Janeiro, did praise Weintraub for proposing a new literacy program and overseeing the start of its implementation.

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Associated Press writer Mauricio Savarese reported this story in Sao Paulo and AP writer Marcelo de Sousa reported from Rio de Janeiro. AP writer David Biller in Rio de Janeiro contributed to this report.