New president’s bid to protect the Amazon will face hurdles

Oct 31, 2022, 2:20 AM | Updated: 2:26 pm
FILE - Brazil's former president who was running for reelection, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, receive...

FILE - Brazil's former president who was running for reelection, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, receives a headdress from Assurini Indigenous people during a meeting with traditional populations from the Amazon in Belem, Para state, Brazil, Sept. 2, 2022. In a victory speech Sunday, Oct. 30, Brazil’s president-elect da Silva promised to reverse a surge in deforestation in the Amazon rainforest. (AP Photo/Raimundo Pacco, File)

(AP Photo/Raimundo Pacco, File)

              FILE - Voters arrive to a polling station at the Ceu Butanta school to vote in a presidential run-off election, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Oct. 30, 2022.  In a victory speech Sunday, Oct. 30, Brazil’s president-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva promised to reverse a surge in deforestation in the Amazon rainforest. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix, File)
            
              FILE - A electoral official carries a voting machines to a polling station during a presidential run-off election pitting President Jair Bolsonaro against former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, in Autazes, Amazonas State, Brazil, Oct. 30, 2022.  In a victory speech Sunday, Oct. 30, Brazil’s president-elect da Silva promised to reverse a surge in deforestation in the Amazon rainforest. (AP Photo/Edmar Barros, File)
            
              FILE - Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, center, who was running for president again, hold hands with a supporter after voting in a presidential run-off election in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Oct. 30, 2022. In a victory speech Sunday, Brazil’s president-elect da Silva promised to reverse a surge in deforestation in the Amazon rainforest. (AP Photo/Andre Penner, File)
            
              FILE - An area of forest on fire near a logging area in the Transamazonica highway region, in the municipality of Humaita, Amazonas state, Brazil, Sept. 17, 2022. In a victory speech Sunday, Oct. 30, Brazil’s president-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva promised to reverse a surge in deforestation in the Amazon rainforest. (AP Photo/Edmar Barros, File)
            
              FILE - Brazil's former president who was running for reelection, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, receives a headdress from Assurini Indigenous people during a meeting with traditional populations from the Amazon in Belem, Para state, Brazil, Sept. 2, 2022. In a victory speech Sunday, Oct. 30, Brazil’s president-elect da Silva promised to reverse a surge in deforestation in the Amazon rainforest. (AP Photo/Raimundo Pacco, File)

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — In a victory speech Sunday, Brazil’s president-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva promised to reverse a surge in deforestation in the Amazon rainforest.

“We will once again monitor and do surveillance in the Amazon. We will fight every illegal activity,” leftist da Silva said in his speech at a hotel in downtown Sao Paulo. “At the same time, we will promote sustainable development of communities in the Amazon.”

To achieve this in his third term, he will have to boost environmental law enforcement, face a hostile Congress and deal with state governors who have strong ties with the defeated far-right President Jair Bolsonaro.

If he is serious, the job will be immense. The area deforested in Brazil’s Amazon reached a 15-year high from August 2020 to July 2021, according to official figures. Satellite monitoring shows the trend in 2022 is on track to surpass the previous year.

On the ground, the main challenge will be to rebuild environmental agencies and Brazil’s Indigenous bureau. Da Silva also promised to create a ministry of Indigenous affairs headed by an Indigenous person.

Under Bolsonaro, these have been led by appointees close to the agribusiness sector, which has long pushed for the legalization of land robbing and opposes the creation of protected areas such as Indigenous territories.

In 2023, the agribusiness sector, which backed Bolsonaro’s failed reelection bid, will control about half of the Congress. In recent years, the caucus advanced bills to ease environmental legislation.

At the state level, six out of nine Amazon governors are Bolsonaro allies, most with strong ties with agribusiness. One of them, Marcos Rocha, from Rondonia state, got reelected two days after he made a high profile bid to burnish his anti-environment credentials by removing the protection on a conservation land roughly twice the size of two New York City.

Da Silva has to use his support at the ballot box to promote his environmental agenda, according to Caetano Scannavino, coordinator of Health & Happiness, an Amazon non-profit that supports sustainable projects in the Tapajos basin.

“Most Brazilians have expressed opposition to deforestation and violation of Indigenous rights,” Scannavino told The Associated Press in a phone interview. “Da Silva has to seize this clamor and gather academics, nonprofits, and the more responsible sector of the agribusiness. The challenge is to make the environment a State policy, independent of left or right.”

On the international front, da Silva’s promises to preserve the world’s largest rainforest have already found supporters. The Norwegian government indicated it will resume its performance-based multi-million-dollar donations to finance anti-deforestation policies.

“Norway looks forward to revitalizing our extensive climate and forest partnership with Brazil,” the minister of Climate and Environment, Espen Barth Eide, wrote on his Twitter account.

___

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New president’s bid to protect the Amazon will face hurdles