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Brazil's Bolsonaro to merge environment and agriculture ministries

Mauro Pimentel, AFP | Brazilian Rio Grande do Sul Congressman Onyx Lorenzoni (C), Brazilian economist Paulo Guedes (L) and Brazilian Social Liberal Party (PSL) vice-president Gustavo Bebianno (C-Back) talk with press.

Brazil's far-right President-elect Jair Bolsonaro will merge the environment and agriculture ministries, an adviser confirmed Tuesday, a move activists have warned could imperil the Amazon rainforest.

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“Agriculture and environment will be in the same ministry," lawmaker Onyx Lorenzoni, Bolsonaro's likely chief of staff, told journalists after the president-elect huddled with his top advisers to begin forming his new government just two days after his election.

Bolsonaro, who is backed by Brazil's powerful agro-industrial lobby, had already floated the idea in the past, saying, "Let's be clear: the future ministry will come from the productive sector."

Environmentalists have criticised the idea, saying that the work of the environment ministry will be mitigated by business interests.

A former environment minister, Marina Silva, called the decision “disastrous” and said that it would promote deforestation.

The Amazon, which is being deforested at an annual rate of some 52,000 square kilometers (20,000 square miles) – an area the size of Costa Rica – is vital to the exchange of oxygen for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, a check on global warming.

Most of the Amazon is located in Brazil, which has taken major steps in recent years to curb deforestation.

Worryingly, about 20 percent of the rainforest has been lost in the past 50 years, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). WWF has said that a strong economy depends on the environment.

Andre Nahur, the coordinator of the WWF’s climate change and energy programme in Brazil, told AFP in an interview that forests “guarantee that important sectors of the economy such as agrobusiness and energy continue producing and contributing to GDP".

“It’s vital the new president recognises the role that socio-environmental issues play in maintaining economic growth;" added Nahur.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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