Brazil Update: President Dilma gives forest criminals an early Christmas present.
by Daniel Brindis
December 16, 2011
In themidst of a political street fight over the Brazilian Forest Code, the UN climate talks in Durban and the holiday season, President Dilma approved a signed a law that will weaken environmental enforcement, making it much easier for loggers and cattle ranchers to break the law and destroy more Amazon rainforest in the coming years.
Environmental protection in the frontier areas of the Amazon in recent years have depended heavily on the national Brazilian environmental enforcement agency, IBAMA. In many frontier areas of the Amazon, state and local governments have been “reluctant” or ill-equipped to crack down on illegal logging, especially when it may have been done at the behest of local elites, wood barons or agribusiness. Many times in recent history these interests have used violence and intimidation to silence critics or even local governments with the best intentions. One can credit this past decade’s decreasing rate of deforestation in Brazil to better enforcement by the Brazilian federal government who has been able to send IBAMA agents into the field to bring forest criminals to justice.
The state governments are typically responsible for issuing permits logging permits and fining those cutting the forest illegally. Before this new law, the federal government, through IBAMA, was also able to enforce the law. The new law, however, only allows the agency responsible for the permit to penalize violators of the law. IBAMA, being a federal agency, will no longer be as able to step in to support forest protection. This change basically paralyses one of the most effective means to stop illegal forest destruction.
IBAMA Agents’ presence in the advancing Amazon frontier is more necessary than ever considering that the new forest code, if approved, will open up a new deforestation rush in the Amazon.
Now it will be up to other parts of the federal government or the states to enforce the law and many are ill-prepared and not ready for such a challenge. As Greenpeace Amazon Campaign Director Paulo Adario explained his concerns, “enforcing the law will be up local powers, who are much more easily influenced by perpetrators of the law than the Brazilian federal government.”
According to the Brazilian newspaper O Globo, the Brazilian Environmental Ministry had even urged Dilma not to approve the new law. This new law that weakens IBAMA gives us no assurances whether Dilma will be able stand up to Agribusiness interests in Brazil and follow the wishes of the vast majority of Brazilians who want to protect the Amazon. It isn’t too late to voice yourconcern to Dilma about how her decisions are crucial to the fate of the Amazon.