Brazil’s Lula picks Amazon defender for environment minister

Dec 28, 2022, 4:34 PM | Updated: Jan 7, 2023, 1:58 pm
Brazil's President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and newly-named Environment Minister Marina Silv...

Brazil's President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and newly-named Environment Minister Marina Silva, smile during a meeting where he announced the ministers for his incoming government, in Brasilia, Brazil, Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022. Lula will be sworn-in on Jan. 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

(AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) —

Brazil´s President-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva announced Thursday that Amazon activist Marina Silva will be the country´s next minister of environment. The announcement indicates the new administration will prioritize cracking down on illegal deforestation even if it means running afoul of powerful agribusiness interests.

Both attended the recent U.N. climate conference in Egypt, where Lula promised cheering crowds “zero deforestation” in the Amazon, the world’s largest rainforest and a key to fighting climate change, by 2030. “There will be no climate security if the Amazon isn’t protected,” he said.

Silva told the news network Globo TV shortly after the announcement that the name of the ministry she will lead will be changed to the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change.

Many agribusiness players and associated lawmakers resent Silva. That stems from her time as environment minister during most of Lula’s prior presidency, from 2003 to 2010.

Lula also named Sonia Guajajara, an Indigenous woman, as Brazil’s first minister of Indigenous peoples, and Carlos Fávaro, a soybean producer, as agriculture minister.

Silva was born in the Amazon and worked as a rubber tapper as an adolescent. As environment minister she oversaw the creation of dozens of conservation areas and a sophisticated strategy against deforestation, with major operations against environmental criminals and new satellite surveillance. She also helped design the largest international effort to preserve the rainforest, the mostly Norway-backed Amazon Fund. Deforestation dropped dramatically.

But Lula and Silva fell out as he began catering to farmers during his second term and Silva resigned in 2008.

Lula appears to have convinced her that he has changed tack, and she joined his campaign after he embraced her proposals for preservation.

“Brazil will return to the protagonist role it previously had when it comes to climate, to biodiversity,” Silva told reporters during her own appearance at the U.N. summit.

This would be a sharp turnabout from the policies of the outgoing president, Jair Bolsonaro, who pushed for development in the Amazon and whose environment minister resigned after national police began investigating whether he was aiding the export of illegally cut timber.

Bolsonaro froze the creation of protected areas, weakened environmental agencies and placed forest management under control of the agriculture ministry. He also championed agribusiness, which opposes the creation of protected areas such as Indigenous territories and pushes for the legalization of land grabbing. Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon reached a 15-year high in the year ending in July 2021, though the devastation slowed somewhat in the following 12 months.

In Egypt, Lula committed to prosecuting all crimes in the forest, from illegal logging to mining. He also said he would press rich countries to make good on promises to help developing nations adapt to climate change. And he pledged to work with other nations home to large tropical forests — the Congo and Indonesia — in what could be coordinated negotiating positions on forest management and biodiversity protection.

As environment minister, Silva would be charged with carrying out much of that agenda.

Silva is also likely to face resistance from Congress, where the farm caucus next year will account for more than one-third of the Lower House and Senate.

Two lawmakers allied with Lula who come from the nation’s agriculture sector told The Associated Press before the announcements they disagree with Silva’s nomination given the conflict of her prior tenure. They spoke on condition of anonymity due to fear of reprisals.

Others were more hopeful. Neri Geller, a lawmaker of the agribusiness caucus who acted as a bridge to Lula during the campaign, said things had changed since Silva’s departure in 2008.

“At the time, Marina Silva was perhaps a little too extremist, but people from the agro sector also had some extremists,” he said, citing a strengthened legal framework around environmental protection as well. “I think she matured and we matured. We can make progress on important agenda items for the sector while preserving (the environment) at the same time.”

Silva and Brazil stand to benefit from a rejuvenated Amazon Fund, which took a hit in 2019 when Norway and Germany froze new cash transfers after Bolsonaro excluded state governments and civil society from decision-making. The Norwegian Embassy in Brazil praised “the clear signals” from Lula about addressing deforestation.

“We think the Amazon Fund can be opened quickly to support the government’s action plan once the Brazilian government reinstates the governing structure of the fund,” the embassy said in a statement to the AP.

The split between Lula and Marina in his last administration came as the president was increasingly kowtowing to agribusiness, encouraged by voracious demand for soy from China. Tension within the administration grew when Mato Grosso state’s Gov. Blairo Maggi, one of the world’s largest soybean producers, and others lobbied against some of the anti-deforestation measures.

Lula and Silva were also at odds over the mammoth Belo Monte Dam, a project that displaced some 40,000 people and dried up stretches of the Xingu River that Indigenous and other communities depended upon for fish. Silva opposed the project; Lula said it was necessary to meet the nation’s growing energy needs and hasn’t expressed any regret since, despite the plant’s impact and the fact it is generating far below installed capacity.

After Silva resigned, she quit Lula’s Workers’ Party and became a fierce critic of him and his successor, Dilma Rousseff. Silva and Lula didn’t begin to reconcile until this year’s presidential campaign, finding common cause in defeating Bolsonaro, whom they deemed an environmental villain and would-be authoritarian.

Caetano Scannavino, coordinator of Health and Happiness, an Amazon nonprofit that supports sustainable projects, said Silva “grew to become someone larger than only an environment minister.”

“This is important, as the challenges in the environmental area are even greater than two decades ago,” Scannavino said, citing growing criminal activities in the Amazon and increasing pressure from agribusiness eager to export to China and Europe. “Silva’s success is Brazil’s success in the world, too. She deserves all support.”

___

AP writer Carla Bridi contributed from Brasilia and Diane Jeantet from Rio de Janeiro.

___

Associated Press climate and environmental coverage receives support from several private foundations. See more about AP’s climate initiative here. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Activists momentarily surround an MPD cruiser during a march for Tyre Nichols, who died after being...
Associated Press

Memphis police disband unit that beat Tyre Nichols

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The Memphis police chief on Saturday disbanded the city’s so-called Scorpion unit, citing a “cloud of dishonor” from newly released video that showed some of its officers beating Tyre Nichols to death after stopping the Black motorist. Police Director Cerelyn “CJ” Davis acted a day after the harrowing video emerged, saying […]
19 hours ago
Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., is seen in the U.S. Capitol, July 14, 2022, in Washington.  Gallego sa...
Associated Press

Gallego holds first events of Arizona Senate campaign

PHOENIX (AP) — Democrat Ruben Gallego held the first public events of his U.S. Senate campaign Saturday, taking aim at independent incumbent Kyrsten Sinema and casting his candidacy in a patriotic appeal to the American dream. The fifth-term congressman recounted his journey from a poor family in Chicago to cleaning toilets as a Harvard student […]
19 hours ago
Associated Press

Saturday’s Scores

GIRLS PREP BASKETBALL= Bothell 44, Glacier Peak 40 Burlington-Edison 47, Squalicum 33 Columbia River 53, R.A. Long 28 Entiat 60, Cascade (Leavenworth) 9 Evergreen Lutheran 48, Three Rivers Christian School 26 Hermiston, Ore. 66, Pasco 36 Kamiakin 61, Kennewick 35 Kennedy 49, Bainbridge 42 La Conner 81, Skyview 77 Lakeside (Seattle) 71, Seattle Prep 37 […]
19 hours ago
Associated Press

Saturday’s Scores

BOYS PREP BASKETBALL= Bothell 64, Glacier Peak 49 Cedarcrest 60, Marysville-Pilchuck 57 Inchelium 71, Springdale 70 Kellogg, Idaho 50, Newport 27 Lynden 69, Lakewood 50 Naselle 63, Winlock 59 Sound Christian 69, Pope John Paul II 34 ___ Some high school basketball scores provided by Scorestream.com, https://scorestream.com/ Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. […]
19 hours ago
Associated Press

Arizona Republicans pick former Trump official to lead party

PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona Republicans on Saturday selected former state treasurer and Donald Trump aide Jeff DeWit to be the party’s next chairman, turning to a familiar face with relationships across the fractured party after its worst election in decades. DeWit replaces firebrand Trump ally Kelli Ward, who helped the former president in his efforts […]
19 hours ago
Former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event at the South Carolina Statehouse, Saturday...
Associated Press

Trump says beating of Nichols ‘never should have happened’

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Former President Donald Trump on Saturday said the footage of the brutal beating of Tyre Nichols by five Memphis police officers is “horrible” and that the attack “never should have happened.” “I thought it was terrible. He was in such trouble. He was just being pummeled. Now that should never have […]
19 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Brazil’s Lula picks Amazon defender for environment minister