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Brazilian environment minister resigns over illegal logging in Amazon

The Brazilian rainforests have been in news for all the wrong reasons (Photo: IANS)

Brazilian Environment Minister Ricardo Salles resigned from his position after an investigation into alleged illegal logging in the Amazon rainforest.

Salles, who has been the environment minister since 2019, has been criticised by activists and the public over excessive deforestation. He was also facing a series of investigations into the alleged irregularities.

He addressed a media conference where he announced that his resignation has been accepted by the President.

The immediate reason for his ouster were allegations that he was obstructing an investigation by the federal police into illegal felling in the Amazon–in which the police had made the largest-ever seizure of illegal timber in the country. The police is investigating other allegations of wrongdoing as well.

The police has been conducting a wide-ranging criminal investigation with the approval of the Brazilian Supreme Court.

Salles says that the accusations against him are unfounded and he is being wrongly accused.

Even though Salles is facing the investigations, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro too has been under global opprobrium for the destruction of Brazil's famed rainforests. Activists say that with Bolsonaro coming to power in 2019, both deforestation and emissions have increased.

Marina Silva, a former Brazilian presidential candidate and environmental activist said: "The departure of Ricardo Salles is a victory for society, but it is still a partial victory… we know that he was the operator of Bolsonaro's nefarious and anti-environmental policy. We continue in the fight".

Activists say that Bolsonaro's policies of bringing development to the Amazon and reducing funds for environmental protection have depleted the forests.

After Salles resignation, Bolsonaro has appointed Joaquim Alvaro Pereira Leite, former environment secretary, as Brazil's new environment minister.