Marina Silva's Resignation to Brazil Environmental Ministry: Causes Start Emerging

Photo: Former Brazilian Environmental Minister Marina Silva talks about his resignation in a press conference.

(Picture credit: Joedson Alves/AFP/Getty Images.) Former Brazilian Environmental Minister Marina Silva has finally pointed the finger at someone as one of the causes of her resignation last Tuesday: Blairo Maggi, one of the world's biggest soy producers and governor of the Mato Grosso State.

According to Pagina 12 newspaper, Silva said Maggi has made a fortune depredating the jungle three decades ago, when there were no environmental laws that defended the territory. At the same time, Maggi's State is one of the places where the biggest forestal fights have happened during the last semester; and Mato Grosso and Para States are the leaders in forest clearing."The thing is Marina Silva and Blairo Maggi represent two development models for the four million square kilometers of the Amazon, with a population that doesn't overpass the 25 million inhabitants," writes journalist Dario Pignotti for the mentioned newspaper. "The expansion of the green frontier policy was encouraged by the military dictatorship during the end of last century and is still in force not only in Mato Grosso but in other States like Para or Roraima, where the murders of peasants are common," writes Pignotti.

Last month and last week, respectively, two military leaders (Augusto Heleno and Eliezer Monteiro) confronted president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva over his Amazon policy, of which Silva was defendant. Heleno was accused for insubordination but was confirmed in his position. Marina Silva is no longer in hers.

AFP says that, Lula "had reproached her reticence to conceive permits that were essential to conclude infrastructure work the government considered crucial." Those were hydroelectric plants the government considered necessary for Brazil's energetic needs. According to Associated Press (AP), there were rumors that President Da Silva wanted to fire the former Ministry, but that "he feared she would gain martyr status"; Since Silva worked with Chico Mendes and was respected for her fierce defense of the Amazon.

It might be no coincidence that Silva also resigned her position a week after president Da Silva announced a "sustainable development plan for the Amazon." The plan, informs BBC Mundo, includes "investments in technology and infrastructure to make possible the sustainable use of natural resources and the preservation of biomass."

Silva was quickly replaced by Carlos Minc, former environmental secretary of Rio de Janeiro State and one of the founders of the Green Party in Brazil. AFP noted that "Minc is considered a pragmatic politician, and as environmental secretary for Rio de Janeiro he has been criticized for his agility to concede permits for projects. In record time, he approved the necessary permits to build a gigantic petrochemical center at Itaborai, in the northern area of the Rio State."

However, Ansa informed that Minc announced he will be implacable in monitoring producers, specially soy ones; and that he accused Blairo Maggi of wanting to "deforest to plant soy until the Andean region."

Brazilian environmental leaders were sorry for Silva's loss. "The Minister is leaving because the pressure on her for taking the measures she took against deforestation has become unbearable. Brazil is losing the only voice in the government that spoke out for the environment," said Sergio Leitao, director of public policy for Greenpeace in Brazil according to AP.

The same source says Denise Hamu, secretary-general of the Worldwide Fund for Nature in Brazil, said that the cause of Silva's resignation "was the government's decision to give priority to a multibillion-dollar development plan and put the Ministry of Cities in charge of its Sustainable Amazon project."

"The environmental area was relegated to no priority. She got tired of the thankless struggle. It's a tremendous loss for Brazil, at home and abroad."

::Lula launches Amazon plan, BBC Mundo (in Spanish)
::Soy advance in the Amazon, Pagina 12 newspaper (in Spanish)
::Brazil's environment minister resigns, Associated Press
::Ecologist Carlos Min was designated Environmental Minister for Brazil, AFP (in Spanish)
::The future of the Amazon, in the shadows, Telemetro (in Spanish)
::Agriculture producers against new Environmental Minister, Ansa (in Spanish)

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