Brazil’s President-elect Jair Bolsonaro announced Ricardo Salles as his pick for Environmental Minister in a tweet Sunday. Salles is the former secretary of the Public Ministry of the Environment in Sao Paulo and was sued for administrative misconduct by that entity for favoring mining and agricultural businesses.
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Court documents in the case stated that Salles helped to alter maps that delineated an environmentally protected area in the state of Sao Paulo “with the clear intention of benefiting economic sectors, notably mining.”
Salles was recommended for his new role by the Brazilian Rural Society – a powerful agribusiness lobbying group. He has criticized the Landless Rural Workers Movement and argued that Brazilian agribusiness is “under threat.”
Environmentalists have called the appointment a serious setback at a time when environmental protections are desperately needed.
"In naming him, Bolsonaro does exactly what he promised in the campaign and what he planned from the beginning: to subordinate the Ministry of Environment to the Ministry of Agriculture," the environmental NGO Observatorio do Clima said in a notice.
The group has warned of possible boycotts targeting Brazilian agricultural products if the country’s environmental protection was dismantled.
Brazil is home to 60 percent of the Amazon, the world’s largest rainforest which has a crucial role in maintaining a worldwide balance in CO2 levels.