This is the third part of a series where we are profiling members of the Bolsonaro administration in Brazil. Click here to see our previous pieces on Ernesto Araújo and Ricardo Salles. You can also sign up here to Tracking Brazil, our weekly newsletter about environmental news from Brazil.
Brazil’s Minister of Education misspells words, thinks that universities are full of naked people and dismisses the Amazon fires as a “fake crisis” because the country hasn’t turned into a desert yet. His name is Abraham Weintrau and he’s an economist and university professor.
Weintraub joined the Bolsonaro government in April, replacing Ricardo Vélez. His predecessor Vélez, only lasted for four months in the job and was a highly controversial figure. At one point, he considered changing the History textbooks to lighten up the way they describe the military regime that governed Brazil between 1964-1985 years and killed more than three hundred people.
Weintraub didn’t start off much better. Bolsonaro announced his candidacy stating that he had earned a PhD. The president had later to correct that information.
Weintraub is also haunted by the ghost of ‘cultural Marxism’. Similar to his colleague Ernesto Araújo, he believes a world conspiracy exists to destroy Western values and replace them with Communism.
To Weintraub, Universities are also places where this conspiracy is being plotted. This probably explains why he never got his PhD. It also signals clear ideological alignment with President Bolsonaro. He’s been mocked for misspelling words in Portuguese and for saying “cafta” instead of “Kafka”, mixing up the Czech writer and the oriental food known as ‘kofta’ in English.
One of the first things he did as a minister was to announce that he would cut funding to universities that are “promoting shambles” in their facilities. When asked what did he exactly mean by this, he described it as having “naked people on campus” 🤷 He later extended the cuts to all universities.
According to the Time HIgher Education ranking,14 out of the 20 best universities in Latin America are in Brazil. The country does have some serious education-related problems, but Weintraub seems to have chosen to target one of the few institutions that works well.
THE AMAZON CRISIS
When the Amazon fires sparked global outcry, Weintraub thought it would be a good idea to weigh in. He called the whole situation a “fake crisis” and said that the root of the problem was the recent EU-Mercosur agreement. And of course, “NGOs, the left and «artists»” also held part of the responsibility.
He probably didn’t think that was enough, so he proceeded to insult Emmanuel Macron, president of France, for expressing his concern over the fires. Weintraub used Twitter to call Macron, among other things, an “opportunistic idiot”.
Some days later, during an event, Weintraub delved again into the topic of the Amazon forest. He did so through a series of questions and answers that he asked and replied to himself. This time he only offended the Chinese:
“Is the Amazon forest being destroyed? We’re losing vegetation coverage, but not in such a dramatic way that would compromise [the forest] in the short term. (…) Has there been environmental damage since I was a kid (…)? Yes, there has. Has Brazil turned into a desert? No. Is Brazil the dirtiest place in the world? No. Are there worse countries? Yes, I’ve been to China a few times”.
Just for the record: I have no idea why he brought up that thing about the dirtiest countries in the world or what does that have to do with deforestation or environmental damage.
That was Abraham Weintraub, the Minister of Education who hates universities and misspells words, but it’s relaxed because Brazil hasn’t turned into a desert yet.