By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The announcement of the nomination of Ricardo Salles over the weekend as the new Environment Minister in the Bolsonaro Administration has led to a surge of criticism by environmentalists on the one hand and praises by ranchers and farmers on the other.
“Ruralist Ricardo Salles, indicated by Jair Bolsonaro to head what remains of the Ministry of the Environment beginning in 2019, is the right man in the right place,” stated NGO Observatorio do Clima (Climate Observatory) on its webpage.
According to the NGO, in naming Salles, the president-elect does exactly what he promised during the campaign: ‘to subordinate the Ministry of the Environment to the Ministry of Agriculture’.
“The president-elect, after all, has already made it clear that he sees the environmental agenda as an obstacle and that he intends to dismantle the National Environmental System,” added the entity.
International environmentalist group, Greenpeace, says the nomination will be a setback to environmental policies in Brazil.
“Jair Bolsonaro has already made it clear that he wants to reduce the Ministry of the Environment to a kind of substation of the Ministry of Agriculture. The choice of the new minister only follows this logic,” said Marcio Astrini, coordinator of Public Policy at Greenpeace.
“Following the promises of the president-elect, the main function of the new minister will be to promote a real anti-environmental agenda, putting in place measures that will result in the explosion of deforestation in the Amazon and in reducing the fight against environmental crime. What is already bad, can get worse,” assesses Astrini.
According to the local media, Bolsonaro received the approval of his Agriculture Minister, Tereza Cristina Correa da Costa Dias, for the nomination of Salles.
But if Salles has been criticized by environmentalists, the former São Paulo State Environment Secretary has been praised by farmers.
“The choice of lawyer Ricardo Salles for the command of the Ministry of the Environment, confirmed on Sunday night by President-elect Jair Bolsonaro, should ensure greater legal certainty to the agribusiness and productive sectors of the Brazilian economy” read a statement issued by the Brazilian Rural Society (SRB).
For the entity, Salles will give ‘priority to legal and technical issues of the environment in balance to the development of agribusiness, without ideological bias’.
Member of the Partido Novo (New Party), Ricardo Salles was one of the creators of the Endireita Brazil (Straighten Out Brazil) movement and Secretary of State for the Environment in São Paulo under the administration of governor Geraldo Alckmin. This year, Salles ran for federal deputy, but failed to be elected.
He is known for his pro-producer stance. “Defending the environment and at the same time respecting all the productive sectors of Brazil is what synthesizes our beliefs,” said Salles, after being confirmed as a Bolsonaro cabinet member.
“We will respect all those who work and produce in Brazil, not only in agriculture, but also in all productive sectors, including in infrastructure,” he added.
Despite the statements, Salles told newspaper daily O Estado de S. Paulo that the Bolsonaro government will ‘comply with the laws’. According to him, there will be no ‘ideological persecution’ in his administration.
“There will be harmony between the environment and all productive sectors,” he said.