On May 24, Brazilian politicians took a decisive step towards opening the door to massive new Amazon deforestation, by voting in favor of radical changes to the Brazilian Forest Code - the primary legal instrument for protecting the Amazon.
If these changes become law they will let hundreds of forest criminals off the hook, and massively expand the amount of forest under threat from the chainsaws.
After the vote, the bill needs Senate approval prior to becoming law, and can then can only be vetoed by President Dilma Roussef.
Greenpeace Brazil has issued a statement outlining the implications of the changes to the Forest Code and the state of the Amazon as it faces further deforestation.
“The Amazon forest has never been threatened as it is now. Yesterday was a dark day for Brazil. It started with the assassination by gunmen of José Claudio Silva and Maria do Espírito Santo, forest community leaders in the Amazon state of Pará, and finished with the news that most of Brazil’s politicians in the Congress approved the assassination of our forest legislation," said Paulo Adario, director of the Amazon Campaign for Greenpeace.
“This debate in parliament is already having a devastating impact to the Amazon forest and it's communities. Government monitoring shows a huge spike in deforestation over the last months compared to last year. Farmers are rushing to cut down forests, expecting that the new law will protect them from being punished for their past crimes. They’re also gambling that the new rules will allow them to cut down more forest in the future, and they’re getting started before the ink is even dry.”
Illegal logging barons are acting with impunity, as indicated through the assassination of José Claudio Silva and Maria do Espírito Santo, his wife, shot near their home early yesterday morning. A community leader, who collected and sold Brazil nuts, José lived with constant death threats and in an area with considerable illegal timber extraction. Relaxing forest rules will only increase the risk to such communities, and to the forest they depend on for their livelihoods.”
José and Maria's killers must be brought to justice and forest communities protected from such acts of impunity. President Dilma must stop the chainsaws by keeping the current forest laws intact and getting tough with those who are clearing the rainforest right now.