Ricardo Salles, Brazil’s environment minister, resigned Wednesday from his position in a surprise decision celebrated by activists.
Dubbed “Brazil’s Environment Minister” by opponents, Salles has overseen a sharp increase in deforestation in Amazon rainforest over the past two years.
Local media reported that his exit was linked to the need to take care of a “family business”. He will be replaced by Joaquim Alvaro Pereira Leit, who is currently Secretary of the Amazon and Environmental Services at the Ministry of the Environment.
Salles’ resignation comes amid a Investigation by the Federal Police on allegations that he colluded with illegal loggers to export timber from the Amazon.
Last month, Brazil’s Supreme Court granted investigators access to his home and bank records. At the time, Salles said there was “no basis for the accusations.”
As a minister, Salles was relatively insulated from prosecution and could only be tried by the Supreme Court. If he remains outside the government after his resignation, investigators will be better able to pursue legal action.
Salles was considered one of President Jair Bolsonaro’s closest ideological allies and rarely differed from him in rhetoric or ideas.
His resignation comes a day after he was publicly congratulated by Bolsonaro on Twitter, telling Salles: “It is not easy to occupy your ministry.”
deforestation in The Brazilian section of the Amazon It was up 67 percent in the last moth compared to the same month a year earlier, according to data from the National Institute for Space Research Inpe. During the first five months of this year, deforestation increased by a quarter compared to the corresponding period last year, to 2,548 square kilometres.
Besides the president, Salles, a former lawyer, was widely seen as a sympathizer of the hordes of illegal logging and brutal gold miners who infiltrated the rainforests.
Brazil suffers from worst dehydration For nearly 100 years, millions have faced water shortages and the threat of power outages.
Marcelo Laterman, a climate activist from Greenpeace Brazil, said drought is “directly linked” to deforestation in the Amazon, which last year reached its highest level in more than a decade. The forest’s water recycling system plays a vital role in the distribution of precipitation across South America.
Scientists have also warned that dry weather increases the likelihood of devastating fires in the southern reaches of the rainforest and in the wetlands of the Pantanal, a biome rich in wildlife where swathes of land were burned last year.
“[Salles] He oversaw the weakening of the environmental agencies that protect the Amazon. He sought to exploit the pandemic to loosen environmental rules. He obstructed investigations into illegal logging. Luciana Telles, environmental researcher at Human Rights Watch, said on Twitter: “His passing is good news for the rainforest.