Ac­tivists de­cry bill on Ama­zon de­for­esta­tion

CityPress - - News -

The gov­ern­ment of em­bat­tled Brazil­ian Pres­i­dent Michel Te­mer has sent a pro­posed bill to the Na­tional Congress that en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists fear would re­duce pro­tected for­est ar­eas in the Ama­zon.

If passed, the bill would see preser­va­tion ar­eas of the Ja­manxim Na­tional For­est in the Ama­zo­nian state of Para cut by 27%, about 350 000 hectares, an area roughly the size of Por­tu­gal.

Crit­ics say that land-grab­bers il­le­gally oc­cu­py­ing for­est land stand to ben­e­fit the most.

The bill comes as Te­mer is ex­pected to face a vote in Congress on Au­gust 2 that could see him sus­pended and face trial for cor­rup­tion.

Crit­ics see the bill as a way for the scan­dal-plagued pres­i­dent to shore up vi­tal sup­port from the coun­try’s pow­er­ful agri­cul­ture cau­cus.

“This pro­posed bill and other anti-en­vi­ron­men­tal leg­is­la­tion pro­posed by Te­mer is a way for him to buy votes and stay in power,” said Mar­cio Astrini, pol­icy co­or­di­na­tor at en­vi­ron­men­tal watch­dog Green­peace Brazil. Ac­cord­ing to par­lia­men­tary watch­dog group Con­gresso em Foco, the agri­cul­ture cau­cus holds 230 seats in Brazil’s 513-seat lower house and 24 in the 81-mem­ber Se­nate.

Novo Pro­gresso, the mu­nic­i­pal­ity where the Ja­manxim Na­tional For­est is sit­u­ated, is a hot­bed of vi­o­lent land con­flict, land grab­bing, il­le­gal log­ging and min­ing. Ja­manxim was de­clared a na­tional park in 2006 to try to min­imise these im­pacts.

In June, trucks be­long­ing to Brazil’s en­vi­ron­men­tal po­lice were burnt in Novo Pro­gresso af­ter Te­mer ve­toed a sim­i­lar bill to re­duce the for­est ar­eas by 37%. The veto was an­nounced on the evening of a trip to Nor­way, one of the big­gest in­vestors in Brazil’s Ama­zon, and fol­lowed crit­i­cisms by Nor­way’s Prime Min­is­ter Erna Sol­berg.

If the bill passes, farming, min­ing and in­dus­trial ac­tiv­ity would be per­mit­ted in the pro­tected for­est ar­eas and the oc­cu­pants who re­ceive land ti­tles will also be able to sell their land.

“Peo­ple who have il­le­gally oc­cu­pied pub­lic land are be­ing re­warded in­stead of be­ing pun­ished,” said Elis Araujo, a re­searcher and lawyer at the Ima­zon en­vi­ron­men­tal watch­dog agency.

The gov­ern­ment says that only ar­eas oc­cu­pied be­fore 2006 will be reg­u­larised and that only 20% of the for­est on each prop­erty can be used for farming or min­ing. How­ever, Araujo fears that the bill can be al­tered to ben­e­fit land-grab­bers and il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity.

Sen­a­tor Romero Juca, rap­por­teur of the bill, de­scribed the law in the Se­nate as a his­toric debt paid to thou­sands of fam­i­lies who mi­grated to the Ama­zon in the 1970s and 1980s and never re­ceived land ti­tles promised by the gov­ern­ment.

Crit­ics re­fute the so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity claim, how­ever, point­ing out that the law gives amnesty for prop­er­ties as large as 2 500 hectares, hardly small land­hold­ings.


RUN, FOR­EST Ac­tivists in Dur­ban protest against the de­for­esta­tion of the Ama­zon in Brazil

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