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  •  Ricardo Salles, incoming minister of the environment, in Brasilia, Brazil, Dec. 10, 2018.

    Ricardo Salles, incoming minister of the environment, in Brasilia, Brazil, Dec. 10, 2018. | Photo: Reuters

Published 21 December 2018

The President-elect Jair Bolsonaro-picked minister is accused of misrepresenting the Tiete River's environmental protection plans during the Alckmin Administration.

Sao Paulo's Court of Justice Judge Fausto Martins Seabra found minister of environment appointee Ricardo Salles guilty on the charge of "administrative impropriety" in relation to irregularities during his tenure as the head of the city's environmental agency in 2016.

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Judge Martins issued instructions for Salles' political privileges to be suspended for three years, in addition to the payment of a fine, although the incoming minister can still appeal the decision.

"I understand there was no impropriety at all and my lawyers will appeal at the opportune moment," Salles said, adding that while the ruling found issues with the protection plan, it did not indicate that there had been any environmental damage or personal gain.

Salles, who was once private secretary to former presidential candidate Geraldo Alckmin, gained media attention, during the 2018 campaign, after he stated that Brazilian leftists and members of the Landless Workers Movement should be shot with rifles.

"And there we go, with an environment minister sentenced in court for actions against the environment. Amazing."

The President-elect Jair Bolsonaro-picked minister is accused of misrepresenting the Tiete River's environmental protection plans when he served as the secretary of environment in the Alckmin Administration.

Salles reportedly "violated legal norms" to favor the economic interests of the Federation of Industries of Sao Paulo (Fiesp), the most influential business association in Brazil. Judge Martins also added that Salles and Fiesp modified University of Sao Paulo's maps to benefit companies in the mining sector.

Salles is among the last of the ministers selected by Brazil's Bolsonaro, who will take office on Jan. 1.

The environment portfolio has been the subject of controversy during the past weeks, with the president-elect once considering eliminating the post, before subsequently retaining it.

Brazil's overall environmental policies have also been under threat from Bolsonaro, who entertained the idea of removing the country from the Paris Pact, alleging that some attributes of the climate agreement could likely compromise "national sovereignty." 

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