ALERT member Philip Fearnside, arguably the world’s leading authority on Amazon conservation, tells us about chilling recent events in Brazil:
The last two months have seen a spectacular series of blows to Brazil’s environmental licensing system and other eco-protections.
These have occurred in the days and even hours leading up to a congressional vote to begin impeachment actions against president Michel Temer, based on serious revelations of corruption.
There have been so many environmental and political setbacks recently that it’s difficult to know where to start.
For one thing, President Temer supported and signed the notorious “land-thieves law” that legitimizes illegal land claims of up to 2,500 hectares in area (the size of 5,000 football fields), many of which are in the Amazon rainforest.
He also has effectively pardoned vast sums in fines and debts owed to the government by the powerful agribusiness and ranching sectors (see here and here), while weakening the criteria for definition of indigenous lands.
The president has also supported a controversial highway project demanded by conservative politicians — known as “ruralists” — and backed measures to reduce Amazonian protected areas (see here, here, and here).
These measures are in addition to Temer handing out over $1.3 billion in pork-barrel appropriations to selected federal deputies — with estimates of future handouts as high as $5.2 billion, not including other other expensive concessions to Temer’s political allies.
The president’s political handouts are worsening Brazil’s economic crisis, while cutting into funding direly needed by the Environment Ministry, among other government sectors.
This is Brazil today. A president with dark corruption allegations hanging over his head is willfully sacrificing the country’s incredible environment to save his own political skin — while handing out massive payouts to his "ruralist" allies in congress.
Cover image: (c) Toa55/Shutterstock; Squirrel monkeys: (c) Jess Kraft/Shutterstock