Head of Brazil's environmental agency resigns
The chief of Brazil's environmental protection agency resigned on Monday after the new government led by far-right President Jair Bolsonaro -- a critic of its treatment of mining and farm interests -- raised questions over its spending.
Suelly Araujo said in a letter to Environment Minister Ricardo Salles that she would step down on Tuesday as head of the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Resources, IBAMA. She had led the agency since June 2016.
Salles last week tweeted an excerpt from an Ibama contract signed in July 2018 for the rental of vehicles at a cost of 28.7 million reais ($7.8 million at current exchange rates).
"Nearly 30 million reais in car rentals for Ibama alone," Salles said in his post. That was retweeted -- then deleted -- by Bolsonaro, who added that his government was uncovering "mountains of irregularities."
Araujo said in her Instagram feed that she considered the comment to be "an unfounded accusation, which shows a total misunderstanding of the size of Ibama and its functions."
She said the contract covered the lease of 393 SUVs modified for patrolling forests, fighting fires, technical examinations across Brazil's 27 states, and included fuel, maintenance and insurance, with a vehicle turnover every two years.
Araujo noted that media reports had already "amply" spoken of a successor who she said was named by Bolsonaro's team even before he took office on New Year's Day.
Ibama's press service told AFP that Araujo had not officially received any notification that she was to be replaced.
Bolsonaro has repeatedly criticized Ibama for what he sees as overly slow action on environmental permits to timber, farming and mining companies, and a perceived zeal in handing out fines.
He has made it clear that he intends to put business interests above environmental ones to boost exploitation of Brazilian commodities and resources as part of a plan to boost the economy.
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