On 15 June, the leader of the opposition in the Brazilian senate, Randolfe Rodrigues, filed a request with the country’s supreme court (STF) for the preventative arrest of Education Minister Abraham Weintraub.
Weintraub is one of the more vocal and controversial ministers in the group of populist ideologues in President Jair Bolsonaro’s government, and his work at the head of the education ministry has been questioned and criticised ever since his appointment in April last year. More recently, he has contributed to exacerbating the tense relations between the executive and other branches of government through his involvement in radical ‘bolsonarista’ events and his comments attacking Brazil’s democratic institutions, notably the STF. As pressure from these institutions grows, there are signs that Weintraub is losing the support of Bolsonaro, who had so far stood by his education minister despite his frequent gaffes and controversies.
- Rodrigues’ petition, which also requests that Weintraub be suspended from his post, that he give evidence to the police, and that his phones and computers be seized, is based on comments made by the education minister in a cabinet meeting in April. The video recording of this meeting, made public on 22 May, shows Weintraub saying that “these punks”, starting with STF magistrates, should be thrown in jail.
- This comment has already led to Weintraub being included in an STF investigation into threats against the court’s members, particularly through the use of 'fake news'.
- Rodrigues argues that Weintraub’s “profound contempt” for the members of the supreme court was reinforced by his appearance at a pro-Bolsonaro demonstration in Brasília on 14 June. Flouting the Federal District’s rules on wearing face masks, Weintraub appeared amongst demonstrators who defend the closure of congress and the STF.
- “He wasn’t representing the government, he was representing himself”, President Bolsonaro said yesterday of Weintraub’s excursion the previous day, adding that it “wasn’t very prudent” of him to have taken part in the demonstration.
An habeas corpus request for Weintraub to be removed from the STF investigation into fake news, filed by the government in May, looks set to be rejected with six of the supreme court’s 11 members having voted against it so far.
In brief: Brazil’s exports reliant on commodities and Asian markets
* The Brazilian economy institute (Ibre) at the Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV) university in São Paulo has released the May data of its monthly foreign trade indicator (Icomex), which outlines how Brazilian exports have become increasingly reliant on the sale of commodities to markets in Asia, confirming a trend observed in April. Even as the value of commodities has fallen, the volume of exported commodities grew 23.5% in May year-on-year. Commodities accounted for 71% of Brazilian exports in May, with an important year-on-year increase in the volume of exports from the agro-sector in particular. Meanwhile, 32.5% of Brazil’s exports were destined for China in May, with China and the rest of Asia the only foreign markets to have seen a positive variation in export volumes in January-May this year, compared with 2019.