BRAZILIA – Brazilian Environment Minister Ricardo Salles has fired a government analyst who opposes an environmental review of timber exports, an official notice said on Monday, after thousands of shipments from Amazon had passed the necessary approvals over the past year.
Reuters reported last month that Brazil had exported thousands of shipments of timber from the Amazon port over the past year without permission from the federal environmental agency Ibama.
After this problem was discovered, amid increasing controversy over deforestation in the Amazon rainforest under right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro, the head of Ibama overturned a rule requiring the agency to authorize all timber cargoes.
The lifting of the rule flew before a group of analysts led by Andre Socrates de Almeida Teixeira, the coordinator general to monitor the use of biodiversity and foreign trade, which has encouraged it to be upheld.
According to a notice in the official news, Salles removed Teixeira from his position and replaced him with Rafael Freire de Macêdo, who had worked in the related field.
Teixeira declined to comment and Macêdo did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Ibama said it was a routine change made in the rules, without explaining further. The environment ministry did not respond to requests for comment.
A source who is aware of the problem told Reuters that the Teixeira shooting was in retaliation for his dissent.
“It is more a political change to appoint someone who is more flexible … to facilitate control and facilitate timber exports,” the source said.
Ibama had previously stated that timber cargo must obtain an export permit from the federal Revenue Service, which was only given after cross-referencing with the country’s system to monitor timber to verify that the wood originated from a legal country.
Thus, Ibama was still able to carry out direct inspections of timber cargoes to be exported.
The Amazon is the largest rainforest in the world and its preservation is seen as important to curb climate change due to the large amount of greenhouse gases it absorbs.
The destruction of the Amazon surged last year, provoking global protests, with some foreign leaders and environmentalists blaming Bolsonaro’s policies for braving illegal loggers, ranchers and land speculators.
Bolsonaro said poverty in the Amazon was to blame and that he had been unfairly denied.
(Reporting by Jake Spring; Editing by Tom Brown and Cynthia Osterman)
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