Environment Minister suggested that the government take advantage of the pandemic’s press attention to pass “infralegal reforms” in environmental laws. NGOs denounce the Bolsonaro government’s “destruction policies”. The statements by Environment Minister Ricardo Salles during a meeting with President Jair Bolsonaro and other government ministers on April 22 generated notes of disapproval by international environmental organizations , like Greenpeace.

The video of the ministerial meeting, made public by the Minister of the Supreme Federal Court (STF) Celso de Mello this Friday (05/22), is a key part of the investigation that investigates the alleged attempt of interference in the Federal Police (PF) by Bolsonaro, but ended up revealing a series of controversial statements by the president and ministers on other topics.

At the meeting, Salles suggested that the government take advantage of the fact that press attention is focused on the coronavirus epidemic to advance some changes in environmental laws, which under normal circumstances could be met with strong criticism by the media and public opinion.

“We have the possibility at this point, that the attention of the press is turned almost exclusively to covid-19 … The opportunity that we have, that the press is giving us a little relief on other issues, is to pass on the infralegal reforms of deregulation, simplification, all the reforms that the whole world demanded “, said the minister.

Salles went on to affirm that the Environment is the ministry that faces the most difficulties to “pass any infralegal change in terms of normative instruction and ordinance”, because everything the portfolio does “is a stick in the Judiciary the next day”.

“So for that we need to make an effort here while we are in this moment of tranquility in terms of press coverage, because it only talks about covid-19, and go on passing the cattle and changing all the rules and simplifying rules. From Iphan, from the Ministry Agriculture, Ministry of the Environment, Ministry of that, Ministry of that. Now it’s time to join efforts […]. It is regulatory that we need, in all aspects. “

After the video was released, Greenpeace said that the Bolsonaro government, “incarnated in Salles’ speech,” makes clear its “project to dismantle the country’s environmental protection conditions”. The minister “even uses the death of the victims of the pandemic to violently pass this policy of destruction”, denounces Luiza Lima, spokesman for Public Policies at Greenpeace Brasil.

“Salles believes that people dying in line at hospitals is a good opportunity to move forward on his anti-environmental project. He believes that the absence of the media spotlight, properly aimed at the pandemic, would be enough to do what he wants. But there is no space for him to ‘spend his cattle’ “, continues Lima.

According to the spokeswoman, “the society remains attentive, the Federal Justice, judging its actions, and the satellites that measure the increase in deforestation, attesting the result of its policy”. “Bolsonaro won the elections, but he did not win a blank check to end the forest and the indigenous peoples, ministers like it or not”, concludes the Greenpeace note.

In the same vein, a statement from the NGO WWF Brasil expresses the entity’s “indignation” with the “strategy to destroy the legal framework for the protection of the environment in Brazil evidenced by Salles’ speech” at the ministerial meeting on April 22.

“It is no surprise that Minister Ricardo Salles has been working, since the beginning of his mandate, to weaken the rules and institutions created to defend our environmental heritage. It is not by chance that 2019 was the year with the greatest deforestation in the Amazon in a decade, and the figures for this year show that we will surpass that mark “, says the text.

WWF claims to be “notorious for administrative paralysis in the ministry [de Salles] and in the organs associated with it “, but it describes as shocking” his intention to take advantage of the greatest economic and health tragedy in many generations, a pandemic that has already resulted in tens of thousands of lives lost, to, in his words, ‘pass the cattle ‘”.

“Minister Ricardo Salles’ speech exposes his awareness that what he is proposing is illegal, and that therefore he resents the threat that Justice can bring to his intentions. He exposes that he acts against national interests, in silence, oblivious to a wide discussion that encompasses the desires of society “, continues. “Brazil needs a minister equal to the importance that the environment has for the country. It is essential that the appropriate legal provisions are applied.”

The Climate Observatory, in turn, says that the video reveals “a Minister of State declaring his intention to destroy the environment in the country taking advantage of a catastrophe that stopped Brazil and kills tens of thousands of Brazilians”.

According to the environmental organization, Salles is “not only willing to dismantle the rules of the portfolio itself, but calls on the entire government to do the same and asks for protection from the AGU [Advocacia-Geral da União]”.

The organization asks the Federal Public Ministry, the STF and Congress to take immediate measures to remove the minister, stating that the consequences of keeping Salles in office “will be very serious for the country”. “By plotting intentionally against his own portfolio, he demonstrates acting with a deviation in purpose”, accuses the Observatório do Clima.

“The revelation of the government’s objective and the method of destroying environmental regulations further exposes Brazil, whose economy was already shaken before the pandemic. It eliminates our international credibility, creates risk for investors and increases the loss of our ability to do business. “, completes the note. “In short, the anti-environmental policy of Jair Bolsonaro and his minister costs us, in addition to environmental degradation, jobs and lives.”

After the video was released on Friday, Salles said in a social network that he always defended “reducing bureaucracy and simplifying rules, in all areas, with common sense and everything within the law”. “The tangle of irrational rules hinders investments, job creation and, therefore, sustainable development in Brazil,” he wrote.

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Deutsche Welle is Germany’s international broadcaster and produces independent journalism in 30 languages.