SAO PAULO – Brazilian minister Augusto Heleno has confirmed that agents of the country’s secret service were part of the delegation sent by President Jair Bolsonaro’s government to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Madrid in December.
Heleno, the Secretary of Institutional Security, confirmed the news on social media on Friday after the Brazilian Intelligence Agency (Abin) had admitted that its agents had been present at the 2019 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP25).
The minister’s confirmation comes four days after Sao Paulo-based daily Estadao published a report revealing that the Brazilian delegation, headed by Bolsonaro, included at least four secret agents.
According to the newspaper, the spies were allegedly tasked by the government with keeping a watch on nonprofits, other members of the delegation, and foreign delegates.
Since coming to power in 2019, Bolsonaro has faced widespread criticism from environmental groups and the international community for his anti-ecological discourse and easing environment norms.
However, Bolsonaro has lashed out at the critics, alleging that Brazil was facing a disproportionate smear campaign of “fake news” directed against its powerful agribusiness.
On Friday, Heleno repeated the claim, alleging that there were “sordid and untruthful” international campaigns that aimed to “harm Brazil,” and justified the presence of the agents at the summit as a “strategic” move.
The minister criticized the “myopic vision of some” regarding the intelligence agency as “deplorable,” and insisted that Abin was a state institution that will “continue to fulfill its duty in events inside Brazil and abroad.”
In 2019, during the first year of Bolsonaro’s term in office, the deforestation in Amazonia jumped 85 percent compared to the year before, while fires in the world’s largest tropical forest grew 30 percent to around 90,000.
However, the president has claimed that the fires in Amazonia and Pantanal – the world’s largest wetland – are a result of the indigenous community’s way of life, as they use fire to prepare the land for cultivation.