Page last updated at 20:57 GMT, Tuesday, 27 May 2008 21:57 UK

Brazil environment chief sworn in

Brazil's Environemnt Minister Carlos Minc and President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva at inauguration ceremony (27.05.08)
Mr Minc (l) has already angered soya farmers over deforestation figures

Brazil's new environment minister has been sworn in amid concern among environmentalists over whether he will be able to curb Amazon deforestation.

Carlos Minc has taken over from Marina Silva, who resigned in frustration at the government's environment policies.

He has said he wants to maintain the priorities of his predecessor.

But correspondents say he faces many competing interests, with pressure to provide economic opportunities for the Amazon region's 25m people.

BBC regional analyst James Painter says Mr Minc, a founder of Brazil's Green Party, has the right credentials.

But, he points out, the incoming minister admits he is not an expert on the Amazon at a time when international attention is focusing on the region and the critical role it plays in the world's climate.

Mr Minc is a professor of geography and a won a United Nations prize in 1989 for being one of the world's 500 notable green campaigners.

Amazon rainforest
The Amazon rainforest plays a key role in absorbing carbon dioxide
He was also the environment secretary in the state of Rio de Janeiro.

Mr Minc has already angered Brazil's soya farmers by saying new figures show a rise in deforestation in the region of Mato Grosso. The farmers dispute the figures.

He is under pressure from environmentalists to ensure the conservation of the rainforest is given due consideration at a time when the Brazilian government is following an ambitious economic agenda, based in part on a boom in commodity exports.

Mr Minc says he wants a bigger budget and the ability to use the army to protect Brazil's national reserves.

But this has already been ruled out by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Critics fear that, as in many developing countries, the Brazilian environment ministry will lose out in power struggles with the more important ministries which prioritise economic growth over environmental protection.

Mr Minc's appointment also coincides with irritation in Brazil over comments suggesting the protection of the Amazon rainforest is too important to be left only to the Brazilian authorities.

Brazil's President Lula stressed earlier this week that there could be no question about his country's sovereignty over the region.

"The Amazon has an owner and that owner is the Brazilian people," he said.


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