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Candidates with a dirty record of environmental crimes are elected in 85 Brazilian municipalities

One out of three candidates with environmental fines were elected

Credit: Vinícius Mendonça/Ibama/via CC BY-SA 2.0

18 Nov 20

Candidates with a dirty record of environmental crimes are elected in 85 Brazilian municipalities

The investigative journalism agency Pública revealed that 85 Brazilian municipalities elected mayors and vice mayors fined by Ibama for environmental infractions, a quarter of them in municipalities in the Amazon region. Among the crimes are “deforestation, burning, exploitation of native forest located in reserves,” including falsification of information for environmental agencies”, points out the survey made by the report.

The states of Pará and Mato Grosso lead the list of elected offenders, with ten each. Highlights include reelection in the municipality of Trairão, which was marked by the “Day of the Fire” in August 2019: both the mayor, Valdinei José Ferreira, and the vice mayor, Maurício de Lima Santos, have environmental fines that total R$ 6.6 million. The municipalities of Itaituba and Novo Progresso, also known as “Day of the Fire” hotspost, followed suit, with the election of politicians involved in environmental crimes. In Mato Grosso, the candidate with the highest number of environmental fines in these elections, Freud Fraga dos Santos, will continue for his second term as vice mayor of the municipality of Alto Araguaia.

Other states appear with significant numbers of environmental offenders elected are Ceará, Tocantins, Alagoas, Bahia, Paraíba, Amazonas and Minas Gerais.

Environmental offenders hold public office and run for local elections in Amazon states

Names on Ibama’s “dirty list” might gain more power in the 2020 elections

Crédito: Felipe Werneck/Ibama/via CC BY-SA 2.0

7 Oct 20

Environmental offenders hold public office and run for local elections in Amazon states

A former logging company owner, defendant in an environmental crime charge, became director of the Acre’s Institute for the Environment and Climate Analysis (Imac), the state agency responsible for “preventing and encouraging the preservation of the environment”. The State Official Gazette ratified the nomination on October 2, according to G1 news. The Federal Prosecutor’s Office (MPF) denounced Adelaide de Fátima Oliveira for fraudulent misrepresentation, for making public inspection difficult on environmental issues and for acquiring lumber without a valid license. According to the complaint, in 2014, the former businesswoman instructed employees to insert false information into the control system used for issuing Forest Origin Documents (SisDOF) in an attempt to falsify the legality of the lumber she was selling. The same procedure also might have happened in 2015, in another company that she owned. Questioned by the G1 portal, Oliveira declined to comment.

In other states of the Legal Amazon region, several environmental offenders already occupy public positions, and the situation may worsen with the upcoming municipal elections in November 2020. The investigative journalism outlet Agência Pública made a study that shows that 118 candidates for mayor were fined for environmental crimes committed in the region in the last ten years. Of these, 51 are in office. Out of the 28 running for re-election, 12 are farmers, ranchers or loggers.

Among the politicians fined by Ibama, Pública found mayors of municipalities in the State of Pará who gained national attention for what became known as the “Day of Fire”, on August 10th, 2019 – Valmir Climaco (MDB), from Itaituba; Raimundo Batista Santiago (PSC), from Jacareacanga; Valdinei José Ferreira (PL) and his deputy, Maurício de Lima Santos (PL), from Trairão; Ubiraci Soares Silva (PL) and his deputy, Gelson Luiz Dill (MDB), from Novo Progresso. Publica also listed candidates for mayors and vice-mayors from states outside the Amazon who have environmental fines for crimes committed in the region. The states of Goiás, Ceará, São Paulo, Bahia, Minas Gerais, Mato Grosso do Sul, Pernambuco and Paraná have 11 candidates, and six of them are running for reelection.

Farms involved in criminal “Day of the Fire” sell meat to JBS and Marfrig, says Greenpeace

São José Farm in São Félix do Xingu (PA), one of the properties responsible for the “Day of the Fire” supply cattle to both agro-giants

Crédito: Christian Braga/Greenpeace

5 Oct 20

Farms involved in criminal “Day of the Fire” sell meat to JBS and Marfrig, says Greenpeace

A Greenpeace report released on the one-year anniversary of the event known as “Day of Fire”, when a coordinated action by farmers caused a 1,923% increase in forest fires in Amazon’s Pará State, showed that forest fires-causing properties are part of the supply chain of Marfrig and JBS, Brazilian multinationals and the two largest meat producers in the world. Greenpeace also found connections between properties that provide cattle to the companies with slave labor. The document points out the São José farm, in the municipality of São Félix do Xingu, Bacuri and Santa Rosa farms, both in Altamira. The latter two supplied indirectly to slaughterhouses — meaning that they sell to properties that pass produce on to the sector’s giants. JBS informed that São José is no longer part of its distribution chain. The report also points out that only 5.7% of the 478 properties with active fire on Fire Day received fines. 

Meanwhile, international pressure grows. Parknshop, Hong Kong’s largest supermarket chain, said it would no longer buy meat from JBS. In the United Kingdom, a public consultation may pass a new legislation that increases the severity of regulation to products that come from areas of deforestation. 23 food giants – like McDonald’s, Mondeléz and Nestlé – wrote a letter to the government calling for greater control over the entry of produce from deforested areas. The British company M&S also announced, in late September, that it will no longer use soy in any of its products to combat deforestation in Brazil.

One year later, “Day of the Fire” leaves “legacy of impunity”, says Greenpeace

Cattle herd in Novo Progresso, Pará State, one of the “Day of the Fire” hotspots

Photo: Vinícius Mendonça/Ibama/via CC

10 Aug 20

One year later, “Day of the Fire” leaves “legacy of impunity”, says Greenpeace

One year ago, between August 10th and 11, 2019, rural landowners coordinated to start forest fire in Amazon areas in southern Pará State, in the episode that became known as “Day of the Fire”, which caused protests in its aftermath throughout Brazil. In that period, the National Institute of Space Research (Inpe) detected 1.457 fires hotspots in the state, a 1923% increase when compared to the same period in the previous year (2018). 

As the first anniversary of the event approaches, NGO Greenpeace says that the “Day of the Fire” left a legacy of impunity. According to an investigation led by the NGO, out of the 207 rural properties where fires registered in the period in the region, only five were fined by environmental authorities. In 2020, some are functioning normally, producing crops and cattle. 

The local newspaper Folha do Progresso, who first reported on the organization of the Day of the Fire, noted that the rural landowners felt encouraged to engage in the burning by the words of Bolsonaro and declared that the action had the aim of showing the president their willingness to work. Adélcio Piran, the journalist who first reported the incident, told Deutsche Welle that he’s still facing attacks and threats one year after the story came out.

One year after the criminal event, the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest in Pará State is still on the rise. According to data from the Amazon Men and Environment Institute (Imazon), the loss of native forest grew 29% between August, 2019, and July, 2020, when compared to the previous year. The state also has 6 municipalities among the 10 in the country with the highest deforestation rates, including Novo Progresso, where the Day of the Fire originally started.

Rural landowners organize ‘Day of the Fire” in the Amazon

Fires in Novo Progresso, Pará State, in August

Crédito: Lucas Landau/Greenpeace

14 Aug 19

Rural landowners organize ‘Day of the Fire” in the Amazon

On August 5th,  a local newspaper from the city  of Novo Progresso, in the southeast of Para state, revealed a coordinated movement led by regional farmers and land grabbers to promote the “Day of the Fire” on deforested areas on August 10th. According to the publication,  the farmers felt “backed by the words of the president” Bolsonaro and declared anonymously that the  coordinated fire was to “show to the president that they are willing to work”.  (Later investigations revealed  that at least 250 farmers coordinated via whatsapp).

 

The Public Prosecution office learned about the movement and, on August 8th, two days before the Day of the Fire, sent an urgent alert to Ibama asking for stronger presence of inspectors around protected areas in the region. However, Ibama responded to the prosecutors request only on August 12th, two days after the Day of the Fire. In its response, Ibama wrote that “due to several attacks suffered by IBAMA agents and the lack of support from the Para Military Police, our inspection operations are on hold because of concrete security risks to our field teams”. For many years, IBAMA maintained a base in Novo Progresso during the fire season, but in 2019 the operation was cancelled due to the absence of police and military forces. 

INPE monitored the region and detected an explosion of fires starting precisely on August 10th, the Day of the Fire. In Novo Progresso, hotspots increased by  300% in the days following the announcement. In Altamira, close to the BR163 highway, the hotspots increased by  743% after August 10th.

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