Priscilla Peixoto – from Cenarium Magazine
MANAUS – “To say that the report is contradictory is even an offense to the work of the Federal Police experts. I doubt this very much, so present these reports, I bet my salary. If these seizures are improper, why don’t they sue me? Have I abused my authority? They should sue me and do you know why they don’t? Because they are afraid and they know that I am in my right to defend myself, I will rub this report in their faces”, the statement is from the Federal Police delegate and former superintendent of the institution in the Amazonas state Alexandre Saraiva, in an exclusive interview to CENARIUM, one day after the decision of the judge of the Federal Regional Court of the 1st Region (TRF1) Ney Bello came to light in the national media.
The issue that practically turned into a ‘judicial arm wrestling match’ gained repercussion again after an article published in the newspaper Folha de São Paulo, on Wednesday 19th. In summary, the injunction granted by the judge, in December 2021, releases part of the wood seized in Pará at the end of 2020, during Operation ‘Handroanthus’, of the Federal Police (PF), suspected to have originated from illegal deforestation.
The decision meets a request from Bolsonaro’s lawyer Frederick Wasse. According to Folha de S.Paulo, Wassef represents MDP Transportation and, even if of provisional nature, the injunction allows the return of the illegal material collected by the police operation. In October last year, the magistrate authorized the return of seized wood to six other companies, represented by other lawyers.
“It is necessary to understand that there is a difference between wood seized from clandestine product of crime, and wood of legal origin. In this context, with the necessary assumptions fulfilled, I grant, in part, the injunction request to determine the immediate return of wood / logs that are duly labeled and legalized, originating from legally exercised activity”, reads an excerpt from the document.
Attack against the people
For Alexandre, the situation that occurred is an “attack” against the State of Pará, the ex-superintendent questions if Judge Ney Bello, in fact, did not pay attention to the land grabbing in the region and the illegalities that involve the subject. For Saraiva, this is not only a crime against nature, but also against the public patrimony.
“I believe that the law has no words or technical terms to define the size of the crime in that region. It is an attack against the people of Pará, because the beneficiaries of this land are not people from there. They are people from the south of the country who have never set foot in the state of Pará and don’t even know what the Amazon is, the only thing they receive from the Amazon is illicit logging money”, says Saraiva, adding.
“So I challenge anyone to sue me, because I have two supermarket carts of evidence. I have studied this inquiry in depth and it is not the first investigative work that I have done, I have been in the Federal Police for 18 years and I am very thorough in what I do. This decision, in theory, should put which part of the report it is referring to in order to justify it, even because we are not talking about just any seizure, but the largest seizure of wood in history. One cannot be frivolous, irresponsible in three lines to decide this. What kind of talk is this?”, he questions.
Target and favoritism
In addition to part of the wood, Ney Bello released documents, trucks, rafts and other movable property of MDP that were also seized. It is worth remembering that Bello is one of the names listed to occupy the open seat on the Supreme Court of Justice (STJ). The choice is up to President Jair Bolsonaro, in February, from a list made by the ministers of the court.
“An injunction [fine] arrived for me of R$200,000 per day for me to return the machinery and wood. It came both to me and to the three agents that were there on site and I didn’t deliver, because it was a judge from Pará that was on vacation giving an injunction. I think that these people didn’t understand that I am an honest public servant. Two hundred thousand reais in my account? It is not going to happen. So it was not, it is not the first time. This judge has been removed by the CNJ”, says the delegate, referring to the removal of the federal judge Antônio Carlos Campelo.
A difficult year for the Amazon
Saraiva also comments that 2022 will not be an easy year for the Amazon throughout the Bolsonaro administration, he mentions the dismantling of some agencies such as the Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Ibama) and the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBIO), important enforcement tools.
“Ibama, which I always emphasize is the most important agency for the defense of the Amazon. It was completely disarticulated. This year is an election year. We know how politics works in the Amazon, in this relationship of buying votes, right? This exists all over Brazil, but in the Amazon it has a different dynamic due to the geography, this is problematic and the perspective of being the last year of this government may cause these criminals to try to cash in as much as possible and act as if it were the last year”, he evaluates.
The former superintendent of the Federal Police evaluates this environmental policy for the next four years. According to Alexandre Saraiva, for the next government it is essential that the states actively control deforestation. According to Saraiva, the stricter control of the forest origin document would already bring positive results.
“With this, we solve 80% of the problem. What all wood needs is the DOF [Forest Origin Document]. Otherwise, there is no way to move it. I have already told this story. Imagine a company that sells a stolen car, it can only sell it if it has a scheme there that gets a ‘green card’ from Detran to put there. In the case of wood, the same thing, there is no point in taking the wood if he doesn’t give you the DOF. So, if we control the DOF, we control the wood, inspection, roads, ports, and we solve 90% of the problem”, he explains.
Although these have been difficult years, Alexandre shows hope for better days for the region. “We have satellite monitoring technology to inspect, so we have all the technological apparatus to solve the problem, it is possible to give governance to the Amazon. What we lack is the political will. I think that the next government, God willing, will understand this message and we will have a better future for the Amazon”, he concludes.
Operation ‘Handroanthus’ was carried out in December 2020 by the Federal Police in conjunction with the Federal Public Ministry, on the border of the states of Pará and Amazonas. It is worth mentioning that more than 200 thousand cubic meters worth R$ 130 million of wood were seized during the operation carried out in Pará.
At the time, Alexandre Saraiva accused the then Minister of Environment Ricardo Salles of interfering in the case and obstructing the investigation. Saraiva filed a criminal complaint against Salles and Senator Telmário Mota (Pros-RR) on April 14 with the Federal Supreme Court (STF), one day after the minister met with loggers from Pará in favor of releasing the seized woods.
Six days after the complaint against Salles was filed, the federal government changed the Superintendence of the Federal Police in Amazonas, at the time, Delegate Leandro Almada da Costa replaced Saraiva. While the former minister asked for his resignation from the position, in June 2021, after rumors that he would be arrested in Brasilia.
*With the collaboration of Gabriel Abreu