Brazil fires regional environmental head after he made public comments on illegal mining in areas affected by forest fires

A regional head of Brazil’s environmental authority was fired after he made public comments saying he would no longer burn machinery, some of it seized from illegal miners, in an area heavily affected by forest fires

Reuters September 12, 2019 08:51:26 IST
Brazil fires regional environmental head after he made public comments on illegal mining in areas affected by forest fires
  • A regional head of Brazil's environmental authority was fired after he made public comments saying he would no longer burn machinery, some of it seized from illegal miners, in an area heavily affected by forest fires

  • Evandro Cunha dos Santos was tapped to run environmental enforcement in the northern state of Para

  • On Wednesday, the government official gazette said he had been dismissed

Rio De Janerio: A regional head of Brazil’s environmental authority was fired on Wednesday, a week after being named, after he made public comments saying he would no longer burn machinery, some of it seized from illegal miners, in an area heavily affected by forest fires.

Evandro Cunha dos Santos was tapped to run environmental enforcement in the northern state of Pará. His role included sanctioning loggers, miners, and farmers who felled trees or set fires to clear forest land, amid increasing denuding of the Amazon rainforest that has drawn a global outcry.

Brazil fires regional environmental head after he made public comments on illegal mining in areas affected by forest fires

A fire burns along the road to Jacunda National Forest, near the city of Porto Velho in the Vila Nova Samuel region which is part of Brazil's Amazon. AP

On Wednesday, the government’s official gazette said he had been dismissed. The environmental agency he left, known as Ibama, and the ministry that oversees it, did not immediately respond to questions about his dismissal.

Brazil’s conservation efforts have come under scrutiny this year amid the worst fires in the Amazon rainforest since 2010. Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has called for rolling back conservation rules to allow more development of the region’s natural resources.

Punishment of environmental crimes has plummeted on Bolsonaro’s watch, and Ibama employees have complained that the government has tied their hands and hampered enforcement.

Miners protested the government’s crackdown in Pará on Monday by closing a major highway used to transport soybeans and corn to a key river port in the state, demanding that officials stop burning their equipment during raids.

“Be assured that this will stop,” Santos said that day, referring to the practice of burning seized machinery. “I’m a soldier and I know how to follow an order.”

In April, Bolsonaro said in a video published on social media that he disagreed with the enforcement practice of destroying equipment.

“We should not be burning anything, machinery, tractors, whatever it is,” he said.

Santos had been appointed as a regional head of Ibama by Bolsonaro’s environment minister, who has also been a staunch defender of the president’s line on environmental protection.

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