Ricardo Salles, Brazil’s environment minister, resigned Wednesday from the post in a surprise decision that was celebrated by activists.
Appointed Brazil’s “anti-environment minister” by opponents, Salles presided over a sharp rise in deforestation in the US. Amazon forest in the last two years.
Local media said his exit was connected to the need to participate in “family business”. He will be replaced by Joaquim Alvaro Pereira Leite, who is currently secretary of Amazon and environmental services in the environment ministry.
Salles ’resignation comes amid one investigation by federal police on charges that he colluded with illegal legislators to export timber from the Amazon.
Last month, Brazil’s supreme court allowed investigators access to their home and bank records. At the time, Salles said there was “no substance to the accusations.”
As minister, Salles was relatively isolated from the prosecution and could be tried only by the supreme court. If he stays out of government after his resignation, investigators will be more likely to be able to pursue legal proceedings.
Salles was considered one of President Jair Bolsonaro’s closest ideological allies and rarely diverged from him in rhetoric or ideas.
His resignation comes a day after Bolsonaro congratulated him publicly on Twitter, telling Salles: “It is not easy to occupy your minister.”
Deforestation in the u Brazilian section of the Amazon it increased 67 percent last fall compared to the same month a year earlier, according to data from Inpe, the national space research institute. During the first five months of this year, deforestation increased by a quarter over the corresponding period last year, to 2,548 square kilometers.
Alongside the president, Salles, a former lawyer, was widely perceived as sympathetic to the legions of illegal lighters and gold miners wild cats that permeate the rainforest.
Brazil suffers from it the pawn dries in nearly 100 years, with millions facing water scarcity and the risk of power outages.
Marcelo Laterman, a climate activist from Greenpeace Brazil, said the drought was “directly connected” to deforestation in the Amazon, which last year reached its highest level in more than a decade. The forest water recycling system plays a vital role in the distribution of rainfall throughout South America.
Scientists have also warned that dry weather increases the possibility of destructive fires in the southern rainforest and in the wetlands of Pantanal, a biome rich in wildlife where vast swathes of land were burned last year. .
“[Salles] he oversaw the weakening of environmental agencies protecting the Amazon. He sought to exploit the pandemic to relax environmental regulations. He obstructed investigations into illegal exploitation. His departure is good news for the rainforest, ”Human Rights Watch environmental researcher Luciana Téllez said on Twitter.