BRAZILIAN ENVIRONMENT MINISTER RESIGNS AMID ILLEGAL LOGGING INVESTIGATION
On June 23, Brazil’s Environment Minister, Ricardo Salles, resigned. This news comes one month after the country’s Supreme Court authorized an investigation against Salles, alleging he had obstructed a federal investigation into illegal logging in the Amazon. He will be replaced by Secretary for the Amazon Joaquim Alvaro Pereira Leite (CNN). In a separate investigation, Salles and other top officials have also been accused of facilitating the illegal export of timber to Europe and the United States. Ten other officials have been suspended in connection with this investigation, including the head of Brazil’s environmental protection agency, IBAMA (Associated Press, Buenos Aires Times).
Environmental activists said that Salles’ departure is long overdue. Since taking office in January 2019, Salles presided over an extreme acceleration in deforestation in the Amazon. Though the outgoing minister has stated he aimed to balance economic development and environmental conservation, satellite data has shown the forest has been disappearing at record-breaking rates, with 456 square miles of land cleared in May alone (Guardian, Associated Press).
This rapid deforestation has not gone unnoticed by the current U.S. administration. Ahead of his resignation, Salles was acting as the lead negotiator for Brazil in ongoing discussions with the United States regarding preservation of the Amazon. Observers said that talks between the two countries have been “paralyzed” amid American dissatisfaction with Brazil’s current trajectory (Guardian).