Under investigation, Brazil’s Environment Minister resigns

Under investigation, Environment Minister reportedly resigns
Ricardo Salles during the Pantanal wildfire crisis. Photo: Christiano Antonucci/Secom/MT

Environment Minister Ricardo Salles resigned this afternoon, according to an extra edition of Brazil’s Federal Register.

Mr. Salles is targeted by two criminal investigations for allegedly using his office to benefit illegal loggers. A month ago, the Federal Police carried out searches at addresses linked to the cabinet minister, and marshals claimed to have obtained circumstantial evidence of Mr. Salles’ involvement in an illegal timber export ring.

Within the government, however, he appeared to have retained the trust of President Jair Bolsonaro. Just yesterday, while announcing Brazil’s 2021-2022 Harvest Plan, Mr. Bolsonaro congratulated Mr. Salles for his work.

Indeed, Ricardo Salles appeared to be untouchable. This week, the police chief who ordered the operation targeting the Environment Minister was reportedly dismissed from the head of the financial crimes and corruption division in the Brasília police.Last year, during a cabinet meeting, Mr. Salles suggested the government should take advantage of the press’ undivided attention on the Covid-19 pandemic to “run the cattle herd” through the Amazon, “changing all of the rules and simplifying standards.”