Presidential favourite would abolish Brazil’s environment ministry, exposing world’s largest rainforest and its indigenous owners to criminal gangs of loggers and miners
Publicado em 08/10/2018, no Climate Home News
Por Fabiano Maisonnave
No more Paris Agreement. No more ministry of environment. A paved highway cutting through the Amazon.
Not only that. Indigenous territories opened to mining. Relaxed environmental law enforcement and licensing. International NGOs, such as Greenpeace and WWF, banned from the country. A strong alliance with the beef lobby.
In a nutshell, this is what Jair Bolsonaro, who is sailing towards Brazil’s presidency after taking a near-majority in a first round vote on Sunday, has promised for the environment.
An enthusiast for torture and the 1964-85 military dictatorship, the retired army captain is famous for racist, homophobic, authoritarian and misogynistic rhetoric. But his views on how to manage Earth’s largest tropical rainforest are just as grim and appalling.
Bolsonaro has galvanized voters in urban centres who are disillusioned with the political establishment’s corruption scandals and attracted to his “tough-on-crime” positions amid rising criminality rates. He received 46% of the vote on Sunday and now faces a 28 October run off with the Workers Party’s Fernando Haddad, who polled 29%.
In the Amazon, illegal loggers, miners, land-grabbers, as well as large land owners have rallied to his banner. Here, they don’t expect Bolsonaro to enforce the law. On the contrary, the hope is that he fulfils his promise to obliterate nearly all environment and pro-indigenous legislation. He won massive support in rural central western states and all but one Amazonian state.
Bolsonaro has promised to open indigenous lands to mining and other economic activities. About 13% of Brazil’s territory is recognized indigenous lands, most of them in the Amazon. They are a major barrier to protect the forest, only 2% of rainforest deforestation has occurred inside indigenous territory.
During the campaign, Bolsonaro promised he will abolish the ministry of environment and transfer its functions to the ministry of agriculture. The agriculture portfolio will be handed to politicians from the “beef caucus”, a conservative group of lawmakers who control about one third of Congress and have opposed indigenous land demarcations and advocated for the reduction of conservation units, among other measures, to expand the agriculture frontier. Last week, they formally endorsed Bolsonaro.
Ibama will be stripped of its environmental licensing powers, he said during the campaign. These will be redistributed to other official agencies. That means, for instance, that federal agency will no longer be able to contain controversial projects such as the reopening of the disused BR-319, an 890km highway that cuts from one of the most preserved areas of the Amazon, and São Luiz do Tapajós, a giant hydroelectric plant planned to be built in an area inhabited by the Munduruku indigenous group and river dwellers.
BR-319, which connects Manaus to Porto Velho, is specially troublesome, as it will allow for secondary roads. According to a study by NGO Idesam, an area as big as Germany and Belgium combined is under its influence and will become more vulnerable to land-grabbers and deforestation. Recent attempts to pave it have been barred by Ibama.
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