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Sao Paulo [Brazil], June 24 (ANI): Brazilian Environment Minister Ricardo Salles resigned Wednesday, weeks after he was targeted by federal police as part of an investigation into alleged illegal logging in the Amazon rainforest.

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported that Salles, who has been widely criticised by environmental activists around the world over rising deforestation under his watch, will be replaced by Joaquim Alvaro Pereira Leite, an official previously in charge of monitoring the Amazon.

The outgoing minister had led efforts to try to persuade the U.S. to pay the South American country USD 1 billion to help it combat deforestation and finance sustainable development in the region.

Last month, federal police raided properties linked to Salles as part of a wide-ranging probe into alleged illegal chopping of trees for export. The Brazilian Supreme Court also green-lit a criminal investigation. Salles maintained that the accusations against him are unfounded.

"The departure of Ricardo Salles is a victory for society, but it is still a partial victory; we know that he was the operator of Bolsonaro's nefarious and anti-environmental policy. We continue in the fight," said Marina Silva, a former Brazilian presidential candidate and environmental activistAbout 224 square miles of trees in the world's biggest rainforest were lost in April, the highest level for that month since Brazil's space research agency, Inpe, created the Terra Brasilis platform in 2015 to track the data, according to WSJ.

Meanwhile, environmental activists raised concerns that the Leite's appointment would do little to change the direction of President Jair Bolsonaro's government. Typically, ranchers and soybean farmers operating illegally are blamed for much of the deforestation of the Amazon.

Since Bolsonaro took office in January 2019, his government has been criticised by European governments and activists because of his vocal support for development in the Amazon and policies that trimmed funds for environmental protection. (ANI)

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