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Brazil’s environmental minister resigns after losing Amazon fight

Marina Silva, Brazil’s environmental minister, resigned Tuesday after losing several key battles in her fight to rein in destruction of the Amazon rainforest.

Silva, a former rubber tapper and famed environmentalist, was frequently at odds with development interests, including powerful farmers and ranchers who are seeking to turn the Amazon into Brazil’s agricultural breadbasket. She unsuccessfully opposed several infrastructure projects that are expected to fuel deforestation in the Amazon region.

Green groups say her resignation could be a setback to Brazil’s efforts to protect the Amazon.

“Her resignation is a disaster for the Lula administration. If the government had any global credibility in environmental issues, it was because of minister Marina,” Jose Maria Cardoso da Silva, vice president of Conservation International-South America, told Reuters.

“Brazil is losing the only voice in the government that spoke out for the environment,” Sergio Leitao, director of public policy for Greenpeace in Brazil, was quoted as saying by the Associated Press. “The minister is leaving because the pressure on her for taking the measures she took against deforestation has become unbearable.”

Silva’s said her decision was based on the “the difficulties I have been facing to pursue the federal environmental agenda,” according to Agencia Brasil.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio da Silva chose Carlos Minc, Rio de Janeiro state’s environment secretary and a founder of the Green Party in Brazil, to be the new environment minister, according to Agencia Brasil.

In the second half of 2007, Brazil saw a dramatic jump in deforestation following a three-year decline in forest clearing. Analysts have linked the increase to surging grain prices, which incentivize conversion of cattle pasture for soy and sugar cane. Ranchers then press into forests to clear new pasture land.

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