President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva swore in Brazil's new environment minister on Tuesday, delivering a speech that accused rich nations of hypocrisy over the Amazon and global warming.
Carlos Minc, the former environment secretary for Rio de Janeiro state and a founder of Brazil's Green Party, replaces rain forest defender Marina Silva as environment minister. Marina Silva resigned on May 13, citing stagnation in promoting the federal environmental agenda.
President Silva — who is not related to the outgoing minister — used the swearing-in speech to lash developed nations for alleged hypocrisy on environmental policy.
"They want to discuss the question of global warming but don't talk about cutting down the forest in their countries. They don't want to talk about reducing consumption because they think that we Brazilians have to do what they don't do," Silva said.
Silva praised outgoing minister Marina Silva but took pains to stress that the Brazil's environmental policies were not linked to a single minister.
The daughter of an Amazon rubber tapper and colleague of rain forest martyr Chico Mendes, Marina Silva's resignation came as a surprise and stirred fears among environmentalists that pro-development forces in the government had triumphed over preservationists.
"Minc, act as if you're taking the place of Pele," Silva told the incoming minister, referring to Brazil's former soccer superstar. "It's important to remember Pele wasn't irreplaceable."
Last week, Minc announced that the government would release numbers on Monday showing Amazon deforestation was on the upswing.
That release was postponed reportedly over political infighting between Minc and the governor of Mato Grosso state Blairo Maggi, who is also a major soybean producer.
Soybeans, along with cattle and logging, are one of the main forces driving deforestation in the Amazon.
Marcelo Furtado, coordinator of Greenpeace's Brazil campaign, said the infighting "reflects the ambiguity in Lula's government," referring to the president by his nickname.