Brazilian Environment Minister Ricardo Salles has resigned amid a criminal investigation alleging he obstructed police probe into illegal logging in the Amazon rainforest.
“I understand that Brazil, throughout this year and the next year, in terms of international insertion and also on the national agenda, needs to have a very strong union of interests, desires and efforts. And for this to be done as smoothly as possible, I presented my request for resignation to the President, which was granted,” Salles announced at a press conference on June 23.
Last May, the Brazilian Supreme Court authorized an investigation on Salles and other officials from his ministry on suspicion of a timber trafficking scheme to the United States and Europe.
Salles has denied any wrongdoing.
Salles has been one of the most controversial figures in Bolsonaro’s government as he has overseen a surge of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest since he took office in 2019.
“Salles did not leave because of environmental disasters, but because of criminal problems,” Climate Observatory Executive Secretary Marcio Astrini said on Twitter.
“There were two straight years of deforestation in the Amazon, fires in Brazil and invasions of public areas. He paralyzed the collection of environmental fines, persecuted inspectors and followed a path of environmental destruction in the country,” Astrini also said.
President Jair Bolsonaro appointed Joaquim Alvaro Pereira Leite, the secretary of the Amazon and Environmental Services at the Environment Ministry, as the new environment minister, following Salles’ resignation.
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