12 August, 2020

Brazil minister blasted for calling murdered Amazon defender ‘irrelevant’

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Brazilian environmental groups blasted President Jair Bolsonaro’s environment minister after he dismissed the murdered Amazon rainforest defender Chico Mendes as “irrelevant.”

“I don’t know Chico Mendes,” Environment Minister Ricardo Salles told reporters during an interview show late Monday night, when inquired about the famous Brazilian rubber tapper, union leader and environmentalist who was simply murdered in 1988.

As environment minister, Salles oversees the Instituto Chico Mendes, which is certainly named as soon as the environmental advocate and manages Brazil’s protected conservation areas.

Bolsonaro downplayed environmental concerns throughout his 2019 far-right presidential campaign, threatening to put Brazil right out the Paris Agreement on climate change and advocating more mining and economic improve the Amazon rainforest.

Salles told interviewers in the media show Roda Viva that they hears contradictory accounts about Mendes’ life, saying environmentalists praise his work while local farmers claim he “used the rubber tappers to succeed his own interests.”

“It is actually irrelevant. What difference should it make who Chico Mendes was at the moment?” Salles said.

His comments fueled criticism of the administration’s stance, which environmentalists think are excessively pro-business and farm interests.

Brazilian Vice President Hamilton Mourao sought to downplay Salles’ comments.

“Chico Mendes belongs to Brazil’s history in the defense with the environment,” said Mour?o. “It’s history, exactly like other figures there have been in our history.”

Marina Silva, an old environment minister who organized alongside Mendes being teenager from the state of Acre, said Salles is “misinformed” relating to the activist.

“Inspite of the ignorance of Salles, Chico’s struggle lives on!” she wrote on Twitter.

Salles also confirmed which they would travel to the Amazon somebody in charge of on Tuesday. His press office cannot immediately clarify whether or not it was his first visit as minister or his first-ever journey to the region.

Salles also acknowledged that regulatory “shortcomings” might have led to the rupture of any dam for mining waste owned by Vale SA, which released a wave of mud, killing more than 165 people and devastating the Paraobepa river.

Vale, the world’s largest iron ore miner, knew recently that the dam a heightened possibility rupturing, as reported by an internal document seen by Reuters on Monday.

In 2019, similar failure on the nearby tailings dam during a mine co-owned by Vale, and in the state of Minas Gerais, killed 19 people and damaged the Rio Doce river.

The minister said the us govenment has been wasting technical and cash on licensing and oversight for all types of projects and pledged to introduce policy changes to cope with the problem.

He defended a system whereby environmental licenses for less-complex projects are issued more rapidly, saying he believes this can free up resources to oversee projects of upper complexity, including tailings dams.