By PETER MUELLO
The Associated Press
Tuesday, May 13, 2008; 9:59 PM
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil -- Renowned rain forest defender Marina Silva resigned as Brazil's environment minister on Tuesday, saying she lacked the necessary political support to protect the Amazon.
Silva did not elaborate and did not blame President Luiz Inacio da Silva in excerpts of her resignation letter that were published by the government's official Agencia Brasil news service.
Marina Silva _ who is not related to the president _ said she was stepping down because of "the difficulties I have been facing to pursue the federal environmental agenda," Agencia Brasil said.
She said she would leave office and go back to her post in Brazil's Senate to rebuild political support and push for Brazilian environmental causes.
The president's appointment of Marina Silva after he was elected in 2002 brought a universally renowned environmental star into his Cabinet. Her resignation ended a stormy six-year term during which she often clashed with Brazilian interests lobbying for development in the Amazon rain forest.
It also left environmentalists lamenting that they had lost their biggest ally in the fight against rampant destruction of the world's largest standing forest, known as the "Lungs of the World."
"Brazil is losing the only voice in the government that spoke out for the environment," said Sergio Leitao, director of public policy for Greenpeace in Brazil. "The minister is leaving because the pressure on her for taking the measures she took against deforestation has become unbearable."
President Silva picked Carlos Minc, Rio de Janeiro state's environment secretary, to be the new environment minister, according to Agencia Brasil.
Marina Silva was a colleague of Brazil's most renowned rain forest activist, Chico Mendes, who was shot to death in 1988 in the western Amazon state of Acre. She earned a reputation for defying developers and setting stringent conditions for logging permits and environmental licenses.
Her positions antagonized pro-development ministers within the current government as they sought to boost Brazil's economic growth with agricultural commodities often cultivated in cleared jungle.
Speculation arose that President Silva wanted to fire her but feared she would gain martyr status as an environmentalist.
Silva's office did not immediately comment on the resignation.
Associated Press writers Michael Astor in Rio and Tales Azzoni and Alan
Clendenning in Sao Paulo contributed to this report.