Brazil prosecutors urge removal of environment minister

Brazilian prosecutors have called for the dismissal of the country’s environment minister, alleging he contributed to increased deforestation and fires in the Amazon by removing measures designed to protect the rainforest.

Ricardo Salles oversaw a 25 percent reduction in the Environment Ministry’s budget and the freezing of an international fund to combat deforestation, which “directly contributed” to an uptick in deforestation, said a statement released Monday by 12 public prosecutors.

Environmentalists warn 2020 is on track to be the most destructive year ever for the world’s biggest rainforest, with even more losses than in devastating fires that triggered global outcry last year.

The prosecutors also accused Salles of “administrative dishonesty” and of promoting interests unrelated to his office, echoing claims from other sectors who allege he has supported the legalization of agricultural and mining activities in protected areas.

Salles was recorded in April saying the government should take advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to relax environmental regulations.

The prosecutors want Salles’ political rights suspended and for him to pay damages and a fine.

President Jair Bolsonaro has been internationally criticized after easing restrictions on exploiting the Amazon’s vast riches.