Ricardo Salles survived records of deforestation, the advance of mining, the pressures of the new American government and the burning crisis in the Amazon. He received praise from his boss and continued to play the herd of dismantling the environmental policy. He only started to lose space when he appeared at the center of corruption suspicions.
The minister was a darling of Jair Bolsonaro because he fulfilled a double function: he encouraged the radical bases of the government with an anti-left speech and served the interests of ruralists, miners and loggers. Though an important political play, Salles was becoming an ever-increasing problem at a delicate moment.
Bolsonaro had known for at least 15 days that he would need to fire the minister. The Palácio do Planalto received information about the progress of investigations against Salles in the investigation that investigates a scheme of illegal export of wood. The president realized that it would be impossible to keep him in office without the case spilling over into the center of government.
Corruption is a vulnerable point in the Pocketnist political fabric. The president uses the speech against robbery to attack opponents and defend a government that does not have great results to show. If Salles fell permanently into the hands of the Federal Police while he was in office, with the effusive support of his boss, the sewing could fall apart.
The president settled the assistant’s dismissal and tried to get rid of this risk on the same day that suspicions arose about the negotiation for the purchase of vaccines against Covid-19. A government deputy said he had warned Bolsonaro that there was a “heavy corruption scheme” in Covaxin’s contracts.
The government’s reaction reflects its despair in the face of this story: Planalto threatened the whistleblower and ordered an investigation into the server that had alerted to the business’ problems. Protecting Bolsonaro from suspicions of corruption in this case became a priority. Salles would have to be one less problem.
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