A story straight out of late night crime drama, (minus the one-liners and soundtrack by The Who). Brazilian congressman Raimundo Coimbra Júnior, from the state of Tocantins, set fire to 153 hectares of protected rainforest, but was caught by the authorities and fined 3 million reais (1.8 Million US Dollars). Raimundo, was one of the many "Ruralists," who voted for the new Brazilian forest code that granted amnesty to forest criminals.
Conflict of interest perhaps? Raimundo, a landowner with 800 head of cattle, seemed to anticipate future amnesty. His ranch is located in São Félix do Xingu, a leading forest crime hotspot, in Pará state (which neighbors his home state of Tocantins) . IBAMA, the Brazilian Environmental Agency has been monitoring the area since March of this year through a dragnet called "operation disparada." In case you are curious, Raimundo is claiming that the large scale fire typical of many ranching operations in the area, was an 'accident.' Authorities also seized 5 chainsaws he had on his property.
Meanwhile the Amazon is a dead man walking as the Brazilian Senate returns from recess this week. Over the next few weeks, the Brazilian Senate will vote on the new forest code and decide whether or not it wants to 'delete' 47 million hectares of rainforest, at least the size of California, and grant amnesty to forest criminals.
As the amnesty 'prize' for forest criminals becomes a realistic possibility, illegal deforestation continues to rise- Over the last measured month, deforestation increased 28% and we know now that portions of the Brazilian congress are directly causing the problem and not just 'inspiring' others.