Friday 3 February 2023

Former president of the World Bank stopped the appointment of Rodrigo Chaves in Brazil due to employee protest

One of the officials alleged that Rodrigo Chaves was "a recognized sexual harasser"; The appointment was canceled due to the "risks it represented for the morale of the staff," said the 'The Wall Street Journal'

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3 February 2023 - At The Banks - BCCR

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QCOSTARICA – The former president of the World Bank, Kristalina Georgieva, stopped the appointment of Rodrigo Chaves as country director in Brazil, in 2018, after the employees of said office protested against the appointment of the current presidential candidate of the Partido Progreso Social Democrático (PPSD).

Rodrigo Chaves arrived in the country in 2018, days after being demoted for his actions against at least three officials. He was the Minister of Finance in the Carlos Alvarado government from October 30, 2019, to May 28, 2020.

“He is a recognized sexual harasser,” said one of the officials, as recorded in internal Bank documents.

Georgieva, who is currently the president of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), decided to cancel plans to give Chaves the prestigious post, due to “the risks it posed to staff morale,” according to an investigation by The Wall Street. Journal (WSJ), published on Monday.

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In 2018, Chaves entered his fifth year as country director for Indonesia, the World Bank’s largest office outside the United States, and was scheduled to take over the Bank’s leadership in Brazil, another high-level post. Upon learning of the plans, Brazilian officials protested during a staff meeting.

Consulted by the WSJ, a spokeswoman for Kristalina Georgieva stated that the then head of the World Bank did not take any disciplinary action “because no employee had reported any direct experience or specific accusation against Mr. Chaves.” On the contrary, the now presidential candidate remained in his position, in Indonesia, at the request of the Government of that country.

“Mrs. Georgieva agreed to keep Chaves as country director for Indonesia to honor requests from the Government of Indonesia that he remain in the Southeast Asian country, to ensure prompt and effective support from the Bank, after Indonesia suffered a major earthquake and tsunami in 2018,″ says the WSJ report.

However, a year later, after two officials formally denounced Chaves, he was sanctioned and demoted, without the possibility of promotions or salary increases for three years. But, as soon as the reprimand was issued, he accepted the proposal by President Carlos Alvarado to assume the Ministry of Finance and resigned from the World Bank.

The officials who denounced him had worked with him at the Washington D.C. headquarters, and were part of the team that would have accompanied him to Brazil. The complaint was filed in April 2018; when they also requested that Chaves be suspended from office, as they feared for their safety. However, their request was rejected.

In June of last year, when analyzing an appeal from the complainants, the Administrative Court of the World Bank found that Chaves had engaged in sexual harassment, apologized to those affected and ordered measures to restrict Chaves’ access to the institution’s offices. In addition, the different Human Resources offices of the Bank were alerted so that he would not be hired for a period of three years.

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Monday morning, La Nación requested a statement from the PPSD campaign on the facts revealed by The Wall Street Journal. In the afternoon, the party sent a video in which Chaves complained that the US media published the report four months after the date on which, according to him, he was asked to refer to the issue. also reported Chaves’ alleged ignorance about the protest of the Brazilian officials. Although La Nación reiterated the request for the PPSD to comment on the failed appointment in the South American country, no response was received.

The complaints validated by the highest disciplinary court of the World Bank included comments of a sexual nature, attempts to kiss subordinates and invitations to hotels and vacations. Although the new leadership of the World Bank acknowledged that “sexual harassment took place,” Chaves insists that he did not harass anyone, and attributed his actions to “cultural differences.”

At the time of the events, those affected were subordinates of Chaves, aged 22 and 24, and had just started working for the World Bank. Both denounced that he asked them questions about their sentimental life, invited them out and looked at them in a suggestive way. One of them reported that Chaves tried to kiss her on multiple occasions, in addition to the fact that he suggested taking her to a hotel.

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During the investigation, a witness reported that Chaves insinuated that if her boyfriend was younger than her, he would have to satisfy her in a different way; he referenced having an orgy with six different animals and asked if she had ever been unfaithful or had a relationship with a married man.

Kristalina Georgieva, while leading the World Bank in 2018, agreed to extend the term of the bank’s then-chief in Indonesia even after staff members complained that he had sexually harassed female colleagues.
Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News

Complaints seemed ‘unfair’

The Wall Street Journal reported that last year, when asked about the issue, Georgieva said that she did not know the details about the internal investigation that the World Bank opened against Chaves. However, a high-level source revealed to the WSJ that the former chief knew about the investigation and that she was personally informed about the reported events, after the protest of the employees of the Brazil office.

“Mrs. Georgieva said, at the time, that the allegations against Mr. Chaves seemed unfair to his reputation, the source said,” the WSJ reported.

When confronted with this revelation, a spokeswoman for the former president said that she Georgieva “knew at the time about the concerns of some officials about Chaves’ reputation.” However, the representative added that the then World Bank chief could not act because, at that time, there were no direct accusations against the current presidential candidate.

“Under World Bank rules, any complaint of misconduct must be supported by evidence,” said the spokeswoman for the former (World) Bank chief. She added that officials who are under investigation are not suspended from their positions during the investigations “because doing so would go against the presumption of innocence and the confidentiality of the investigations that the Bank guarantees its employees.”

High-ranking officials consulted by The Wall Street Journal indicated that Georgieva did not make any additional effort to clarify the reason for the employees’ concerns.

“(Sexual harassment) is something that she has experienced during her own career, and she cares a lot about it. However, as CEO of the World Bank, she could not take action against an employee without evidence,” added the representative.

In resolving the appeals of complainants, the World Bank Court declared that they “showed immense courage in reporting the conduct of an official who held a position of power over them.” The seven independent judges also reprimanded the institution’s administrators for failing in their duty to protect staff from harassment.

Rodrigo Chaves arrived in Costa Rica in 2018, days after being demoted due to his actions against at least three officials.

This Sunday, April 3, he will face José María Figueres in the second round, that could land him in the presidential chair for the next four years.

Article translated and adapted from La Nacion. Read the original (in Spanish) here.
Read The Wall Street Journal article on Chaves here.

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