Brazil feeling pressure from global funds, commits to protect Amazon

Brasilia, Jul 15 (efe-epa).- The Brazilian government committed itself on Wednesday to take all “possible measures” to limit deforestation in the Amazon, under pressure by investors who are threatening to withdraw from the country if it does not put an end to that ongoing bio-destruction.

“We will be judged by the efficacy of our actions and not by the nobility of our intentions,” Brazilian Vice President Hamilton Mourao said after a meeting of the government council that is seeking “solutions for Amazonia” at a time when that region is already registering a higher number of forest fires.

In recent weeks, the increase in felling of trees and forest fires, attributed in large measures to farmers who are preparing fields for planting, generated concern among global investment funds and private Brazilian companies, above all after the devastating fires in 2019 in the region.

Mourao acknowledged that that concern “which awakened in Brazil and abroad” imposes “the need for a new state policy for the Amazon,” which environmental organizations say is “under threat” due to the policies of President Jair Bolsonaro.

Regarding that criticism, Mourao reiterated that some are part of a “campaign” mounted by countries that fear being affected by the potential clout of Brazilian agriculture and its growing presence in international markets.

However, he acknowledged that “problems” exist, and “the firm commitment of the Brazilian state, represented by the government, to the protection of Amazonia and the development of that region” must be made clear.

Mourao cited some of the measures adopted to date, which still are not enough for the 30 or so global investment funds who manage about $3.5 trillion in assets and have threatened to reduce their positions in Brazil if Brasilia does not furnish “results” in pursuing environmentally friendly policies.

“We’re going to reduce deforestation to the minimum acceptable and demonstrate our commitment to the international community,” said Mourau, who admitted that the results demanded by private funds will only be able to be made known toward the end of this year, once Amazonia emerges from the dry period, with its concomitant forest fires, that is beginning now.

Mourao gave a review of some of the measures adopted to date and emphasized the deployment of some 4,000 Brazilian soldiers in the Amazon tasked with suppressing the activities of illegal miners and woodcutters, among other criminal groups.

According to the vice president, those groups have grown as a result of the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, since “there are people who have lost their jobs” and, forced “to seek other forms of subsistence,” have joined those seeking hidden gold.

“This year the price of gold has shot up vertically,” said Mourao, who emphasized the support of the government for the Yanomani tribe, on whose lands some 20,000 illegal miners operate, according to official calculations.

He also said that the government must “recover” the ability of official entities dedicated to caring for the environment to oversee the sector, organizations which – according to ecological groups – have been “dismantled” since the ultrarightist Bolsonaro came to power in January 2019.

Mourao denied those criticisms and attributed the reduction in the oversight provided by such entities to “inherited” budgetary problems, but he guaranteed that the government is working to “resolve” that situation.

“We’re putting together a plan to recover all the oversight organizations,” he said, adding that that will enable “the armed forces to be released” from their monitoring activities in the region.

Mourao said that he will remain in contact with domestic and foreign investors who have expressed concern over the growing degradation of the Amazon and will relaunch talks with the governments of Germany and Norway to negotiate a resumption of the protection fund that those countries had sponsored.

That fund, which up until last year had $850 million available to it, was financed mainly by those countries, who froze their participation amid the fires last year and, in part, because of Bolsonaro’s aggressive discourse regarding the environment.

Both Germany and Norway, like global investment funds and powerful private companies, are demanding the adoption of a low carbon economy for the Amazon, a demand joined this week by about 20 former Brazilian economy ministers.

That pressure seems to be exerting pressure on the government to the point where the ultraliberal economy minister, Paulo Guedes, has acknowledged the “importance of sustainable growth from the legal and environmental point of view.”

Guedes spoke this week at a meeting of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, at which he confirmed that if “excesses” had occurred in the Amazon, “they will be corrected.”

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