Brazil: The Monkeyman’s Monkeybars Monkey Business?

https://i1.wp.com/img.timeinc.net/time/reports/environment/heroes/images/roosmalen.jpg
Roosmalen (r.) and me before my morning coffee.

In the charges against him, Roosmalen was also accused of misappropriating 5 tons of scaffolding that had been donated to his agency (INPA) by the firm of Survinel Anglia. The equipment entered Brazil as a tax-exempt donation but was later sold to Antonieta Cavalcante, by the same firm that he said had donated the scaffolding to INPA.

I believe that is actually supposed to read “Survival Anglia Ltda.”

There is an Antonieta Cavalcante who googles up as a nature-programming producer for the National Geographic channel. Same line of business. Same person?

He was fired from INPA in 2003 for allegedly selling genetic material abroad without authorization.

O Pantaneiro (Aquidauana, Mato Grosso do Sul) is one of the very few Brazilian newspapers to notice the release of Dr. Roosmalen after being convicted on charges of misuse of public funds (14 years), as well as maintaining monkeys in captivity without a license and illegally transporting flora and fauna (a year and 6 months).

FOX News, meanwhile, goes, well, ape over the story.

Judging from the sentence handed down, then, the alleged corruption and official misconduct case was much, much more significant than mere transporting monkeys in the cause of science because the fellow was too impatient to fill out the paperwork.

Which is what the fuss is mainly about in press write-ups of the story, and which also seems to me like a good candidate for suspending the sentence or reducing it to a fine.

The charges, I read, came out of a state government investigation into biopiracy three years ago.

I will translate the official statement on that in a minute. First, the trickle of newsflow on this side of the Equator to go with the mighty river of indignation on the other.

Entre os crimes pelos quais Roosmalen foi condenado, esteve o de manter 28 macacos em cativeiro em sua residência sem autorização. No processo, Roosmalen afirmou que usava seu quintal como hospital veterinário. O cientista também foi autuado por transportar ilegalmente macacos e orquídeas coletados em Barcelos (a 450 km de Manaus). Pelos crimes ambientais ele somou um ano e seis meses de condenação.

Among the crimes for which Roosmalen was found guilty was maintaining 28 monkeys in captivity at his residence without permission. During the trial, Roosmalen testified that he was using his back yard as a veterinary clinic. The scientist was also cited for illegally transporting monkeys and orchids he had collected in Barcelos (450 km from Manaus). He received a year and a half on the environmental counts.

Pela acusação de peculato, Roosmalen fora condenado a 14 anos e três meses. Em 2003, ele foi alvo de uma sindicância no Inpa (Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia), onde trabalhava desde 1986. A entidade o demitiu porque ele teria enviado material genético para o exterior sem autorização. Em 2002, Roosmalen também protagonizou um episódio controverso ao tentar “vender”, pela internet, o direito à escolha de nomes científicos de novos macacos a quem estivesse disposto a pagar de US$ 500 mil a U$ 1 milhão. A promessa era doar o dinheiro a projetos de conservação ambiental.

On charges of misuse of public funds, Roosmalen was sentenced to 14 years and 3 months. In 2003, he was the target of an internal disciplinary proceeding at INPA (the National Institute of Amazon Research), where he had worked since 1986. The agency fired him for sending genetic material abroad without authorization. In 2002, Roosmalen was also at the center of a controversial incident in which he attempted to “sell,” over the Internet, the right to determine the scientific names of newly discovered monkey species to anyone willing to page between $500,000 and $ 1 million. The promise was to donate the money to environmental conservation projects.

Did he? I cannot find anyone reporting on the exact nature of the charge and specifications against the guy on that specific issue.

Oh, okay, here we go:

No processo também consta a acusação de desvio de 5 toneladas de andaimes, que foram doados para o Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Amazônicas (Inpa), pela empresa Survinel Anglia Ltda. O material entrou no País com isenção de tributos por constar como doação e, depois, foi vendido, em 1999, para Antonieta Cavalcante, pela mesma empresa que disse ter doado os andaimes para o Inpa. O pesquisador era funcionário contratado do instituto. O procurador federal Edmilson da Costa Barreiro, que deu parecer favorável à condenação do pesquisador, informou que, além da condenação, Roosmalen perdeu o cargo público que exercia no Inpa. “Isso serve como exemplo para que outras pessoas vejam que não se pode fazer tudo em uma instituição pública”, afirmou.

In the case against him, Roosmalen is also accused of misappropriating 5 tons of scaffolding that had been donated to his agency (INPA) by the firm of Survinel Anglia. The equipment entered Brazil as a tax-exempt donation but was later sold to Antonieta Cavalcante, by the same firm that he said had donated the scaffolding to INPA.

His son heads something called Amazon Conservation Team Brasil.

“Eu peguei 14 anos de prisão porque fiz ciência”, disse Roosmalen à Folha, ao sair da prisão. “Fui vitima de politica. Há vinte anos faço levantamento de flora e fauna neste país. O problema é que eu vi demais.” Roosmalen, que descobriu seis novas espécies de primatas na Amazônia, aparentemente era avesso a burocracias e colecionador de inimigos. Em Manaus, dividia opiniões entre as pessoas com quem trabalhou. Entre pessoas que criticaram a condenação está o Secretário de Estado do Meio Ambiente do Amazonas, Virgílio Viana, para quem Roosmalen é “culpado e vítima”.

“I got 14 years in prison because I was doing science,” Roosmalen told the Folha as he left prison. “I am a victim of politics. For 20 years I have been doing research on the flora and fauna of Brazil. The problem is that I saw too much.” Roosmalen, who discovered six new species of primates in Amazônia, was apparently leary of bureaucracy and a collector of enemies. In Manaus, opinions are divided among those who worked with him. Among those criticizing the verdict is the state environment secretary, Virgílio Viana, who believes Roosmalen was “both guilty and a victim.”

Aiding and abetting a tax-avoidance scheme in furtherance of wildlife-themed reality-TV show business is doing science?

(If he did that, of course. Did he?)

“Ele é culpado por não seguir estritamente regras exigentes e vítima pelo fato de as regras serem pouco inteligentes e sensatas; vitima da burocracia e do atraso”, disse Viana. “É inadmissível que um pesquisador sênior com o currículo do Roosmalen seja punido com 14 anos de cadeia tendo, ao que tudo indica, agido de boa fé e em prol da pesquisa científica.”

“He is guilty of not strictly following these exacting rules, and a victim of the fact that the rules are not very intelligent or sensible; a victim of bureaucracy and delay,” said Viana. “It is unacceptable that researchers with his record would be given 14 years in jail given that what he did was done in good faith and in the furtherance of scientific research.”

On the selling of the naming, I still cannot get the exact facts. Checking.

A defesa do holandês alegou que é um direito de quem descobre novas espécies (Roosmalen descobriu pelo menos cinco novas espécies de primatas na Amazônia) escolher o nome, uma prática reconhecida pelo Código Internacional de Nomenclatura Zoológica. E nega que o réu tenha ganhado dinheiro oferecendo a doadores a possibilidade de nomear novas espécies.

The Dutchman’s defense argued that discoverers of new species — Roosmalen discovered five new primate species in Amazônia — have the right to select the name, a practice recognized by the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature. The defense denies that the defendant earned money from offering donors a chance to name new species.

But did he collect money?

If so, where did it go?

And how much of the 14-year sentence was due to those charges, and how much due to this alleged scheme to defraud the Brazilian treasury of import duties on heavy equipment that these Stalinists would rather you be buying from local suppliers anyway?

Local jobs and stuff. The low-intensity trade war between my homeland and Neuza’s is something we have experienced indirectly ourselves, and it is kind of unfortunate. But what are you going to do?

The Embassy always advises you: Obey all local laws. And it’s good advice, too.

We gingos, after all, are a law-abiding people, and, as net exporters of democracy, are bound to set a good example for the great, unwashe world at large. We would not want the Other thinking we are all a bunch of off-the-reservation Jack Abramoffs. Bad for the national brand.

See also

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