Brazil environment minister to step down in March

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil’s environment minister, who had been at loggerheads with the country’s powerful farm lobby, will step down in March to run for state deputy in general elections next year, his aides said on Friday.

Brazil's Environment Minister Carlos Minc talks during a news conference after signing agreement with private banks for environmental sustainability (Green Protocol) at the Environment ministry in Brasilia April 7, 2009. REUTERS/Roberto Jayme

Under Brazilian law any public official wanting to run for office must step down six months before an election.

Carlos Minc, who made many enemies in politics and business trying to impose stricter environmental regulations, is one of the first in President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s cabinet to announce his departure.

The co-founder of the Green Party in Brazil will run for deputy in the Rio de Janeiro state legislature where he had served as a deputy for the past two decades.

“He thinks that’s where he can be most effective in bringing about change,” his spokesman told Reuters.

Presidential, gubernatorial and legislative elections will be held jointly on October 2 next year.

When Minc first took over from Amazon champion and former rubber tapper Marina Silva in May of last year, some conservationists expected he would approve government infrastructure projects that could threaten the environment and ease up the fight against Amazon deforestation.

Instead he intensified the crackdown on loggers, ranchers and farmers behind deforestation in the Amazon. He also barred some roads through the world’s largest rain forest and imposed heavily restricted on others, earning him the wrath of governors and legislators.

In May, he complained about the lack of support from government colleagues for his agenda, the same reason that led Silva to step down a year before.

Ministers who vacate their posts toward the end of the government’s four-year term are typically replaced by career civil servants.

Reporting by Raymond Colitt