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Paula Litaiff – From Cenarium Magazine
With the arrest requested by public prosecutors for participating in a corruption scheme in environmental licensing in Amazonas, agronomist Antonio Stroski starts to command the Municipal Environment Secretariat in Manaus (Semma) in the administration of Mayor David Almeida (Avante), ally of the President of the Republic, Jair Bolsonaro.
Stroski’s appointment surprised members of the Federal Public Ministry (MPF), a body that, together with the Federal Police (PF), investigates the Semma secretary at Arquimedes, an operation that is still ongoing.
Started in 2017, the operation was triggered after Stroski’s suspicions in the management of the Amazonas Environmental Protection Institute (Ipaam), from 2017 to 2018. Prosecutor Leonardo Galiano tried to arrest the technician, but the petition was dismissed.
Ipaam is responsible for Environmental Inspection in the Amazon´s State and the according to the PF and MPF, Stroski was “turning a blind eye” to the export of wood with a Document of Forest Origin (DOF).
The finding came to light after the issuance of an alert issued by the IRS and the Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Ibama).
In the first phase of the Arquimede´s operation, 444 containers from 63 companies with timber cargo were seized. According to the MPF, the wood would be destined for other Brazilian states and also for export.
The countries that would receive the illegal cargo are from North America, Asia and Europe. The total volume of wood seized in the operation was 10,000 cubic meters, if it were lined up, it would cover the distance of 1,500 kilometers, is equivalent to the between Brasília and Belém route.
And also according to the MPF, the criminal scheme, of which Antonio Stroski was accused of involvement, was composed of loggers, forestry engineers, public servants and holders of management plans.
Tentacles in power
In an interview with IstoÉ Magazine in less than three months ago, the superintendent of the PF in Amazonas, Alexandre Saraiva, declared that the practice of illegal deforestation has links in various sectors of society, including the government.
“Deforestation is carried out by a criminal organization with tentacles in a lot of areas of society, including the public service,” said Alexandre Saraiva.
He further stated that crime is the main driver of forest degradation. “The international trade in timber is the mainspring of deforestation,” added the superintendent, who was one of the coordinators of the Arquimedes operation.
Expectation x Reality
When seeking the election in the advertising campaign last year, the mayor of Manaus, David Almeida, said that, if he will be elected, he would give transparency to his management and promised to inform society about his decisions in an interview with A Crítica Journal.
“I understand that transparency is a fundamental principle of public administration and for thinking in this way I will implement the measures that are necessary to correct possible vices, with the objective of making available to society the necessary information about all the acts of the administration”, he declared he, at the time.
In appointing Antonio Stroski to Semma, the mayor of Avante omitted that the technician investigated by the Federal Police or the Federal Public Ministry is limiting himself to only communicating the decision in a press conference.
(*) Contributor to Cenarium Magazine in Amsterdam (NL) and London (UK) Caroline Viegas