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ICMBio reduces civil society participation in endangered species protection plan

Decision alienates NGOs dedicated to conservation

Credit: ICMBio/via O Eco

24 Mar 21

ICMBio reduces civil society participation in endangered species protection plan

A change in Normative Instruction 21 (12/18/10) published by the environmental agency ICMBio altered the rules of the National Action Plans for the Conservation of Endangered Species, weakening the participation of civil society in the process.

According to an article on the O Eco website, the Technical Advisory Groups (GAT), created to evaluate and monitor the action plans and that previously had members from academia, NGOs and civil society associations, will now have “only public agents of the federal public administration up to a limit of five members,” says the article. The text also mentions possible “guests” in the composition, but does not clarify how this choice will be made, nor if the participation of academics and members of civil society will be mandatory or optional.

Bill targets illegal gold laundering in financial markets

Proposition wants to perfect ore origin tracing

Credit: Marcos Amend/Greenpeace

11 Mar 21

Bill targets illegal gold laundering in financial markets

In partnership with the Instituto Escolhas [Choices Institute], Senator Fabiano Contarato (Rede) forwarded to Congress a bill that discusses new mechanisms for monitoring and controlling commercial transactions that currently allow “gold laundering”, an operation that transforms illegally mined ore into apparently legal resources.

The proposal creates a public control system over the gold trade to reinforce the tracking of its origin and curb mining in forbidden areas, such as indigenous lands and Conservation Units. In a statement, Contarato lists the main points of the bill and reaffirms the importance of focusing on market surveillance. “The financial sector can help clean up the gold extraction sector in Brazil and prevent illegal metal from entering the market. Demanding certificates of legal origin and environmental compliance is a constitutional imperative and should be an ethical and moral commitment of the national financial sector,” he says.

Faced with the increased search for safer financial assets, such as gold, amid the financial crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Instituto Escolhas launched, in October last year, the campaign “Where does gold come from?” At the time, the NGO stressed that the ore boom in the international market has stimulated the advance of illegal mining in the Brazilian Amazon, a phenomenon widely denounced by NGOs and indigenous organizations over the past year.

Among them is the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil Network (Apib), which published in 2020 the survey “Complicity in the destruction – III”, about companies associated with the systematic devastation of indigenous territories. Last month, Apib received the resignation of the British mining company Anglo American, one of the companies cited in the document, to cease its activities on indigenous lands in the Amazon. The response was motivated by a petition created by the organization to pressure the company to withdraw applications for copper exploration in Munduruku territory.

Organizations send open letter to the European Union opposing the EU-Mercosur treaty

Treaty could increase deforestation in Brazil

Credit: Christian Braga/Greenpeace

26 Feb 21

Organizations send open letter to the European Union opposing the EU-Mercosur treaty

A Brazilian Civil Society Organizations Front against the Mercosur-EU Agreement, composed by over 100 organizations, sent an open letter to the president of the Council of the European Union, Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa, and to the ambassadors of the European Union and Portugal in Brazil, Ignácio Ybáñez and Luís Faro Ramos, in which they point out the social and environmental damage that Brazil may suffer if the European Union ratifies the treaty.

They state that the agreement has a “neocolonial characteristic” and stimulates “three important factors of deforestation” in the country, by stimulating the increase in the production of agricultural and mineral commodities and encouraging the expansion of the use of logistic equipment.

“We understand that this Agreement, besides contributing to an escalation of human and social and environmental rights violations, could block Brazil’s development. Therefore, we appeal to the good sense of the international community in order to prevent its ratification.”

Federal Court closes investigation against voluntary fire fighters in Alter do Chão

Activists were accused of starting fires in the region in 2019

Credit: Brigada de Incêndio de Alter do Chão/Reproduction

18 Feb 21

Federal Court closes investigation against voluntary fire fighters in Alter do Chão

At the request of the Federal Public Prosecution (MPF), a Federal Court closed the investigation about the causes of the fires that occurred in September 2019 in the district of Alter do Chão, in Santarém (Pará state), which led to the unjustified arrest of four voluntary firefighters who worked in the region. According to a note from the MPF, there was an “impossibility of determining the authorship of the crime”. “We found that the fire originated in three different locations and reached an area of 1.2 thousand hectares, but we discovered no basic evidence that could lead to the authorship of the crime,” the text says.

In November 2019, following an investigation that pointed to NGOs as responsible for starting the fire, the Pará Civil Police carried out the preventive arrest of the four members of the Alter do Chão Fire Brigade, in addition to carrying out a search warrant at the headquarters of the NGO Saúde & Alegria Project, an organization recognized worldwide for its work in the Amazon. Back then, the civil society received with astonishment and indignation the news and mobilized to prove the activists’ innocence. 

Research shows that most Brazilians acknowledges the global warming and is concerned about the environment

Protest in defense of the Amazon in Rio de Janeiro in 2019

Credit: Renan Olivetti/Greenpeace

4 Feb 21

Research shows that most Brazilians acknowledges the global warming and is concerned about the environment

A survey carried out by Ibope, one of the most important research institutes in the country, indicates that most Brazilians recognize the existence of global warming (92%) and attribute it to human action (77%). 72% believe that the phenomenon can harm them and their families, and 88% affirm that it will cause great damage to future generations. The “Climate change in the perception of Brazilians” survey, commissioned by the Institute for Technology and Society (ITS) and Yale University, interviewed 2,600 people over the age of 18 in the five regions of Brazil, between September 24 and October 16, 2020.

The study also reveals that more than half of those interviewed are very concerned about the environment (61%), especially women (68%) and people who identify themselves as being politically in the left (70%). When asked about what would be more important, protecting the environment or promoting economic development, 77% of respondents answered the first option, even if it implies lower growth and job creation. Regarding the fires, which reached record levels in 2020, 77% of the people interviewed attribute the fires in the Amazon to human action, with loggers being pointed out as the main culprits (76%), followed by farmers (49&), cattle ranchers (48%) and gold miners (41%). Indigenous people, pointed out a few days before the beginning of the survey by President Jair Bolsonaro as being responsible for the forest fires, were mentioned by 8% of those interviewed, and NGOs, the target of constant attacks by the government, by 6%.

Biden receives document asking for the suspension of commercial exchange between Brazil and USA

Biden received the document through an aide

Credit: via Gage Skidmore/ via CC BY-SA 2.0

3 Feb 21

Biden receives document asking for the suspension of commercial exchange between Brazil and USA

Scholars from universities in the US, international NGOs such as Greenpeace, and Brazilian organizations such as the Indigenous Peoples Network of Brazil (Apib) delivered a 31-page dossier calling for a thorough review of the US relationship with Brazil. The document points out Donald Trump’s role in “legitimizing Bolsonaro’s authoritarian tendencies” and asks for the restriction of the purchase of lumber, meat and soy, as a response to the high deforestation rates in the country.

The document also mentions minorities, indigenous peoples, democracy, police violence and calls for a revision of the text that allows the commercial exploitation of the Alcântara Space Base in Maranhão, which threatens quilombola [Afro-brazilian traditional communities] territories.

“Anyone in Brazil or elsewhere who thinks they can promote an ambitious relationship with the U.S. while ignoring important issues like climate change, democracy and human rights, clearly has not heard Joe Biden during the campaign,” said Juan Gonzalez, Biden’s advisor who brought the dossier to the core of the government, according to BBC News Brazil.

NGO launches multimedia feature about violence against landless workers, indigenous people and environmentalists

Survey by Repórter Brasil gathers data from the first year of Bolsonaro’s administration

Credit: Daniel Beltrá/Greenpeace

30 Jan 21

NGO launches multimedia feature about violence against landless workers, indigenous people and environmentalists

The multimedia feature “Cova Medida” [Measured Graves], developed by Repórter Brasil, after a report by the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT), provides an overview of the violence against landless workers, indigenous and environmental activists in 2019. The survey portrays the 31 murders recorded in the first year of the Bolsonaro adminstration, marked by the struggle for agrarian justice and the impunity of their authors.

Territorial dispute (39%) and defense of indigenous territories (29%) are among the primary motivations for the crimes. There’s also reports of casulaties related to the defense of the environment, labor issues, denunciation of illegalities and even hate crimes. The victims are mostly men (93%), inhabitants of the Legal Amazon (87%), linked to the landless movements (35%) or indigenous people who died defending their land (25%).

After one year of deaths, 61% of investigations are in a halt, and there are no convictions, says the NGO.

According to CPT, there was a 23% increase in the number of conflicts in the field between 2018 and 2019. According to Repórter Brasil, the former Environment Minister, Marina Silva, points out the conniving posture of the president. “The assassins felt that they have a license to kill. They listen to the government’s speech against indigenous people, environmentalists, extractivists and feel right at home, while the victims are helpless and unprotected,” she said.

The increase coincides with the paralysis of the demarcation of indigenous lands – a “promise” made during the elections and which has been fulfilled – and the agrarian reform in Brazil by Jair Bolsonaro. For 2021, the budget of INCRA – the agency responsible for agrarian reform policy – has been reduced by 90%.

Manaus Mayor blames environmentalists, who opposed the construction of a road, for lack of oxygen in the hospitals

Activists say that the BR-319 threatens the Amazon forest

Credit: DNIT/via O eco

18 Jan 21

Manaus Mayor blames environmentalists, who opposed the construction of a road, for lack of oxygen in the hospitals

In an attempt to justify the oxygen supply crisis in Manaus hospitals by the difficulty of access to the city, Mayor David Almeida resumed his push for the reconstruction of the BR 319 highway and blamed environmentalists opposed to its construction for the collapse in the public health system. “There are people who devastated their countries and come here to lobby against our road, BR-319, which connects Porto Velho, capital of Roraima state, to Manaus. This causes our isolation. This isolation in part contributes to this Covid tragedy,” he told the newspaper O Estado de São Paulo.

In the current emergency scenario, the outlet Amazônia Real emphasized that the road would not be an efficient alternative for oxygen supply. The article also pointed out that the proponents of the work are reluctant to do environmental studies and to meet the demands of Ibama, an environmental control agency.

For experts, the highway represents a threat to the protection of the Amazon and a risk to the survival of several indigenous communities that live around it, by opening areas of forest to the entry of land-grabbers, loggers and other environmental criminals. The BR-319 highway is one of the main promises of the Jair Bolsonaro administration for the Amazon, planned for 2022.

Bolsonaro reduced civil society participation in environmental councils, study says

Survey is based on a timeline of government decisions

Credit: Leandro Cagiano/Greenpeace

15 Jan 21

Bolsonaro reduced civil society participation in environmental councils, study says

A study conducted by NGOs Article 19, Imaflora and Instituto Socioambiental (ISA) highlights and reveals the serious setbacks in civil society participation in socio-environmental policies throughout the Bolsonaro’s administration and in access to information. Exclusion of collegiate bodies, reduction of seats in councils, threats to servants and database blackouts are some strategies mentioned.

Of 22 governmental environmental collegiate organizations, more than half were impacted by extinctions or restructuring, points out the “Mapping of transparency and social participation setbacks in Brazilian environmental policy”. The study highlights the weakening of the National Environmental Council (Conama) – which had its number of councilors reduced from 96 to 23 participants, and of the 23 seats for civil society, only 4 remained – and the National Biodiversity Commission (Conabio), whose representatives from academia and society went from 8 to 2.

For Bruno Vello, Imaflora Public Policy analyst, the survey indicates that “setbacks in environmental policies seen over the past few years make it difficult for society to monitor and participate in decisions made by the Executive,” he said in a note published by ISA.

Government spent only half of allocated budget to fight Covid-19 among indigenous, says NGO

Study claims that there is a “genocide in course”

Credit: Ingrid Ãgohó Pataxó/ Cimi

14 Dec 20

Government spent only half of allocated budget to fight Covid-19 among indigenous, says NGO

The National Indian Foundation (FUNAI), the federal agency responsible for ensuring the rights of the indigenous peoples, spent only half of the resources available for fighting the coronavirus among the indigenous until early December. The figure comes from an unprecedented survey by the Institute of Socio-economic Studies (Inesc). Also, the government program “Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”, also had only 46% of its budget applied in the period. “The low budget usage rate is emblematic of the undermining of the indigenous policies, which, deprived of staff, technical staff and political priority, fails in fulfilling its constitutional duties”, points out Leila Saraiva, political advisor to the NGO.

The data reinforce the claim made by the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil Network (Apib) with the report “Our fight is for life”, which details the impact of the pandemic among the indigenous population. By December 9, the National Committee for Indigenous Life and Memory registered 41,250 indigenous people infected and 889 deaths because of Covid-19.

EU Parliament members criticize proposal to control NGOs in the Amazon in letter to Brazil's VP

VP denies knowing about decree to curb civil society action

Credit: Isac Nóbrega/PR/via CC BY 2.0

27 Nov 20

EU Parliament members criticize proposal to control NGOs in the Amazon in letter to Brazil’s VP

“While the Amazon is burning at record speed, limiting the operations of environmental and social groups and organizations can have devastating consequences,” says the letter sent by European Parliament members to Vice President Hamilton Mourão and to the Amazon Council, spearheaded by the VP, as reported by the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo. The criticism was motivated by the information, publicized by the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo weeks before, that the Amazonian Council plans, through a new regulatory framework, to have total control over the actions of non-governmental organizations in the Amazon until 2022.

Among the signatories is Anna Cavazzini, vice-president of the European Parliament delegation for relations with Brazil. The criticism voices the European Union’s concern about the devastation of the forest, which could halt the trade agreement with Mercosur, signed in 2019.

The document defends cooperation between government and organized civil society and reiterates the positive aspects of NGOs’ actions for Brazilian environmental policy: “NGOs are not there to replace the government, but to complement its actions – and, crucially, to help make public policies more transparent and effective through free criticism”.

However, “free criticism” of Brazilian environmental policy has been a target of attacks by the federal government. In another attempt to curtail it, the Minister of the Environment Ricardo Salles has filed four judicial interpellations, through the Federal Attorney General’s Office (AGU), against his critics – the targets are Márcio Astrini, coordinator of the Climate Observatory, journalists André Borges (O Estado de S. Paulo) and Cedê Silva (O Antagonista), as well as the scientist Antonio Donato Nobre, researcher of the Earth System Science Center of the National Institute of Space Research (Inpe). 

Illegal gold digging massively poisons Amazon Munduruku indigenous with mercury

Blood samples of four out of ten children under the age of five present high mercury levels

Credit: Rogério Assis/Greenpeace

26 Nov 20

Illegal gold digging massively poisons Amazon Munduruku indigenous with mercury

A study on the presence of mercury poisoning caused by illegal gold digging among the Munduruku people in the Tapajós region, Pará State, indicates the presence of the metal in 100% of participants. About 57.9% had mercury levels above 6µg.g-1 – the maximum limit established by health agencies. The survey, conducted with 200 inhabitants of the Indigenous Land (TI) Sawré Muybu, focusing on the villages of Sawré Muybu, Poxo Muybu and Sawré Aboy, shows that in the regions most affected by illegal mining, the level of contamination observed was higher.

Among the children examined, 4 out of 10 under five years old in the three villages showed high concentrations of mercury. “This finding is especially worrisome, since mercury directly affects the Central Nervous System, which is developing in children under five years of age, and the brains of fetuses still in formation in the mother’s womb,” says the study. The survey also showed that the fish in the region, the major source of protein in the communities, are also contaminated by mercury.

Conducted by the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) in partnership with the NGO WWF-Brazil, the study presents a series of recommendations to mitigate the problem, such as the immediate interruption of illegal gold mining in indigenous territories, a plan to discontinue the use of mercury in the camps, and a risk management plan for populations chronically exposed to mercury.

Bolsonaro administration wants to control NGOs in the Amazon

NGOs have been attacked by Bolsonaro since his campaign

Credit: Ana_Cotta/via CC BY 2.0

9 Nov 20

Bolsonaro administration wants to control NGOs in the Amazon

The Amazon Council plans, through a regulatory framework, to have full control over the activities of non-governmental organizations in the Amazon by 2022. The proposal aims not only to control the work of NGOs, but also to limit the actions of those that violate “national interests”, according to documents obtained by the newspaper O Estado de São Paulo. The text, however, does not specify what would be the criteria to be fulfilled by the organisations and what are such interests.

The organizations heard in the report criticized the proposal, and pointed out in the initiative the lack of social participation and authoritarianism that mark the environmental policy of the Bolsonaro administration. “They don’t want to go through the people’s scrutiny and intend to impose themselves without dialogue with the society,” said Ariana Ramos, coordinator of the Instituto Socioambiental [Socio-environmental Institute] (ISA), an organization that has been working since 1994 to defend the environment and indigenous rights.

For the Climate Observatory (OC), the measure is unconstitutional and is part of the “insistent and repugnant campaign of defamation of NGOs by government agents”. In a note, the OC warned about the existence of a device that already has the function of regulating the work of the institutions – the Regulatory Framework of Civil Society Organizations (MROSC), via Law 13.019/2014 – and recalled the attempts of coercion against NGOs by the government of Bolsonaro. “The attacks and persecutions of Bolsonaro’s administration against civil society are a regrettable constant in its political action. Initiatives aiming to control the NGOs have been previously presented by the Executive Power and rejected by the Brazilian Parliament – as in the case of the Provisional Measure (MP) 870/2019. Also in December 2019, agents of the National Intelligence Agency (Abin) went to the Climate Summit (COP25) to monitor (spy) Brazilian NGOs present there”.

The vice-president Hamilton Mourão, who is in charge of the Council, said he didn’t know the proposal, although he signed a memorandum calling servers to discuss the group’s guidelines, including the NGOs control.

The new initiative of the Amazon Council comes to public two months after General Augusto Heleno, chief minister of the government’s Institutional Security Office, publicly attacked, under the pretext of “the crime against the homeland,” one of the most respected Brazilian indigenous organizations, the Indigenous Peoples Network (APIB). Heleno accused the APIB of “publishing fake news against Brazil; imputing environmental crimes to the President of the Republic; and supporting international campaigns to boycott Brazilian products”. In response, the organization stated “that the greatest crime that damages our homeland is the government’s omission in the face of the destruction of our biomes, protected areas, illegal burning, shackling, deforestation and invasion of our lands and the theft of our wealth”.

VP takes ambassadors on blindsiding tour to the Amazon

NGO offered an alternative tour to diplomats, including areas more severely affected by deforestation

Credit: Christian Braga/Greenpeace

6 Nov 20

VP takes ambassadors on blindsiding tour to the Amazon

At the head of two key institutions for environmental protection, the Amazon Council and the Amazon Fund, Vice President Hamilton Mourão organized a tour of the Amazon with ambassadors, which began on October 4. Representatives from the European Union, Germany, France, Sweden, United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal, Canada, Peru, Colombia and South Africa participated in the visits.

As reported by El País, the trip was criticized by environmentalists for proposing a “shielded” route, concentrated on the outskirts of Manaus, capital of Amazonas State, and the city of São Gabriel da Cachoeira, ignoring the regions most affected by deforestation. As a counterpoint, the NGO Greenpeace sent the ambassadors an alternative route, including the states of Pará and Mato Grosso do Sul. “A diplomatic trip through the Brazilian Amazon that does not include in its route the challenges and serious environmental damage that the region faces, is an incomplete trip and a missed opportunity,” said the NGO.

To the DW, Heiko Thoms, German Ambassador, one of the main donor countries of the now paralyzed Amazon Fund, stated that the trip does not change the country’s impression about the Brazilian environmental crisis. In parallel to Mourão’s invitation, Thoms met with the Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon (COIAB) and the Sustainable Amazon Foundation.

The United Kingdom diplomat Liz Davidson shared her impressions in a series of Twitter posts. She reinforced the importance of the visit “at a crucial moment of the sustainable development agenda in Brazil and in the world”. Davidson, however, regretted “not going to the areas most affected by deforestation and not having had the opportunity to talk with organizations and social leaderships working in the region, which would have helped to conduct our dialogue in a more balanced and transparent manner”.

The visit took place amid strong international pressure against Brazil’s high deforestation rates. In early October, the European Parliament called for changes in Mercosur’s environmental policy so that the economic agreement between the blocs could be signed; in June, a group of investors sent an open letter to the Brazilian embassies in several countries expressing concern about growing deforestation rates.

87% of Brazilians say that preserving the Amazon is a top priority

The research was conducted by Greenpeace and heard 1,500 Brazilians

Credit: Fábio Nascimento / Greenpeace

1 Nov 20

87% of Brazilians say that preserving the Amazon is a top priority

The poll “Amazon: deforestation and preservation policy”, commissioned by the NGO Greenpeace to Datafolha Institute and carried out between the 6tg and 18th of August 2020, pointed out that the preservation of the Brazilian forest is a concern for the great majority of respondents. When asked about the importance of preserving the Amazon forest, on a scale of 0 to 10, 87% of 1524 Brazilians heard by the survey answered with the highest score.

In line with what the DETER monitoring system of the Space Research Institute (INPE) shows, the majority of the public (73%) evaluates that deforestation is on the rise in 2020.

About the causes of the problem, the research indicates that the loggers are seen as the main deforesters in the Amazon, followed by miners, ranchers and cattle breeders.

Cristiane Mazzetti, a Greenpeace deforestation expert, commented on the result, saying that the effects of loggers and miners are significant, but 80% of deforested areas are occupied by cattle ranching.

In addition, 46% of those interviewed consider insufficient the work of Bolsonaro to prevent the flattening of the forest; 42% have the same evaluation in relation to state governments; 38% in relation to Ricardo Salle and Vice President Hamilton Mourão; 20% in relation to Ibama and FUNAI, and 19% towards the Army.

Amid environmental control "blackout",  Minister delays data on Brazilian GHG emissions

Salles suggests delaying data delivery to UN

Credit: Carolina Antunes/PR/via CC BY 2.0

21 Oct 20

Amid environmental control “blackout”, Minister delays data on Brazilian GHG emissions

The minister of the Environment Ricardo Salles proposed to delay the delivery of the 4th report on greenhouse gas emissions in Brazil which was due on December 2020 to the United Nations (UN) under the country’s commitment to the Climate Change Convention.

According to Folha de S. Paulo, the minister’s intention is to gain time to change the categorization of emissions data from the agricultural sector. “Salles proposes to move emissions from agriculture to another category, called land use and forests”. In addition, “activities that contribute to removing carbon from the atmosphere – such as the recovery of degraded pastures – would no longer be added as a change in land use, starting to count as positive points for the agricultural sector,” said the article.

In another measure related to climate policy, earlier this month, Salles announced the creation of the Floresta + CARBONO program, with the objective of “promoting a favorable and effective business environment to provide legal security to the forest carbon market”, according to the portal of the Ministry of the Environment, which states that the program would have “great potential” for forest conservation.

If, on the one hand, MMA is mobilizing to benefit the agricultural sector, on the other hand, the ministry is experiencing a blackout of environmental fines. The lack of enforcing penalties, reported by the Climate Observatory (OC), is attributed to Decree 9,760, signed by President Bolsonaro in April 2019, which amended the Environmental Crimes Law of 2008 and established “conciliation centers” to review fines and penalties by Ibama and ICMBio. The study showed that, since then, Ibama has held only five conciliation hearings out of the 7,205 scheduled, while ICMBio has held none. “In practice, the offenders got a gift,” said the OC. The decree, baptized by activists as “Punishment Zero”, became the target of a political parties’ lawsuit filed in the Supreme Federal Court asking for its annulment on October 21.

Covid-19: Amado Menezes Filho, leader of the Sateré-Mawé people, dies at age 65

Amado fought for Covid-19 protection for the indigenous peoples

Crédito: Danilo Mello/Foto Amazonas/Amazônia Real

16 Oct 20

Covid-19: Amado Menezes Filho, leader of the Sateré-Mawé people, dies at age 65

The Tuxaua Geral (general-chief) of the village Sateré-Mawé, Amado Menezes Filho, died due to Covid-19 complications, at age 65, at the Jofre Cohen Hospital, in Paratins, Amazonas State. He was admitted at the hospital on September 23. 

During the pandemic, Menezes Filho fought actively to stop Covid-19 spread among indigenous populations. He demanded the maintenance of a sanitary barrier installed at Maraú River, which leads to the Indigenous Land Andirá Marau, home to the Sateré-Mawé. The Parintins Special Indigenous Sanitary District (DESEI) removed the barrier on May 31. On June 2nd, the Tuxaua Geral and many other leaders from Sateré-Mawé General Council, filed a note to repudiate the decision and denounce the removal of the barrier.

The absence of the barrier led to a rise of coronavirus cases among the indigenous. It rose from 30 and one death to 164 and 5 deaths, according to the Observatory of Indigenous Rights and Policies (OBIND).

Entities, newspapers and social movements recognized Amado Menezes Filho as an historical leader in the struggle for indigenous peoples rights, for land demarcation, health and education.

Salles and federal attorney general act to intimidate environmentalist

NGOs say that attacks against Marcio Astrini are anti-democratic

Carolina Antunes/PR/via CC BY 2.0

14 Oct 20

Salles and federal attorney general act to intimidate environmentalist

The minister of the Environment, Ricardo Salles, in yet another attack against the work of NGOs and environmentalists, requested the Attorney General’s Office (AGU) to summon Marcio Astrini, executive secretary of the Climate Observatory, to present explanations about statements given to the newspaper O Globo on May 25th. In the article, which echoed Salles’ suggestion of taking advantage of the pandemic to further deregulate environmental norms, Astrini criticized what he called “an environmental destruction task force”, led by the minister, and drew attention to its attempt to work with AGU to “avoid legal problems”.

The environmentalist, in addition to his work at the Climate Observatory – which gathers 50 organizations, such as the Instituto Socioambiental (ISA) and the World Wide Fund for Nature – Brazil (WWF-Brazil) -, worked for 13 years at Greenpeace.

According to the G1 portal, the AGU claims that the judicial interpellation is justified by Astrini having committed a “crime against honor”, since “‘Besides attacking the person of the Minister of State for the Environment, it also affects the institution of the Attorney General”.

In a statement, the Climate Observatory repudiated the attempt to intimidate Astrini and criticized the minister’s anti-democratic stance. “While Salles seeks to use the state apparatus to hide his anti-environmental policy, the forest burns, transparency decreases, the democratic space shortens and Brazil’s image disintegrates internationally. His performance only shows that, as a minister, he is not willing to take any kind of effective action for the protection of the Amazon and other biomes, and that is not up to the position it holds “, says the text.

Kayapó people present  manifesto against gold mining in their indigenous territories

Illegal gold mining in Kayapó lands, Pará State

Crédito: Divulgação/ISA

8 Oct 20

Kayapó people present manifesto against gold mining in their indigenous territories

Leaders from 56 Kayapó-Mẽbêngôkre indigenous communities, representing over 6,200 people, released a manifesto against Bill of Law (PL) 191/2020, proposed by the federal government. The PL regulates mining on indigenous lands, as well as the construction of hydroelectric plants. In the manifesto, the Kayapó say that mining would threaten the environmental preservation in their communities and the traditional way of life. “We repudiate the way the federal government has been encouraging the invasion of our territories, either by the rhetoric that strengthens organized crime, or by the omission and weakening of the institutios responsible for protecting indigenous territories and by combating illegal and predatory activities”, says the manifesto. 

The NGO World Resources Institute (WRI) denounced the problem on a global scale with the publication of the report “Undermining Rights: Indigenous Lands and Mining in the Amazon”, on the impact of gold mining on indigenous populations in Amazonian countries, including Brazil. The document — which provides an estimate of the total extent of large-scale mining concessions and illegal operations in indigenous territories within the rainforest — also points to favoring, by national laws, of companies over indigenous communities, according to an evaluation study of six Amazonian countries – Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana and Peru.

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.

New campaign to curb illegal gold mining and trade

Market demand drives illegal gold mining in the Amazon

Credit: Daniel Beltrá/Greenpeace

4 Oct 20

New campaign to curb illegal gold mining and trade

In October, Instituto Escolhas launched the campaign “Where does gold come from?” to pressure global market regulation and oversight in the face of increased demand for safer assets such as gold amid the financial crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The initiative states that the gold boom in the international market stimulates the advance of illegal mining in the Brazilian Amazon, reaching Conservation Units (UCs) and Indigenous Lands (TIs), thus  increasing the exposure of communities to the virus. Due to current lack of regulation, financial institutions trade gold extracted illegally on a regular basis. According to the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo, Brazilian gold exports grew 30.5% from January to August and 2020, compared to the period in the previous year. To curb the purchase of illegal gold, the campaign will forward a proposal for regulation – in public consultation until November 3rd – to the Central Bank and the Securities and Exchange Commission (CNV), which regulates the capital market in Brazil.

Salles uses environmental council to deregulate protective norms

135th Conama meeting was marked by anti-environment policies

Crédito: Gilberto Soares/MMA/Handout

28 Sep 20

Salles uses environmental council to deregulate protective norms

“The Minister of the Environment, Ricardo Salles, fulfilled this Monday, at the 135th meeting of Conama, part of his promise to end environmental protection rules that, in his opinion, hinder the lives of businessmen and large agribusiness corporations. And, using the metaphor that the minister himself used during an April ministerial meeting, he ‘passed the cattle herd’ over some of these rules. During a meeting of the National Environment Council (Conama), on Monday (28), he removed the protection of about 1.6 million hectares of restingas [sandbanks] and mangroves across the country. These are areas of permanent preservation close to the Brazilian coast that arouse interest from the real estate sector and shrimp producers.“.

That was how El País Brasil summed up the 135ª Conama meeting, on September, 28.

Conama, a consultative and deliberative council on environmental policies, underwent profound changes right from the start of Ricardo Salles’ term. In May 2019, he reduced the number of council members from 96 to 23. In the distribution of seats, which now is made by lot and no longer nomination or voting, the minister put the majority of votes in the hands of the federal government (43%) and the productive sectors (8%). NGOs, unions, social and indigenous movements, universities and representatives of states and municipalities lost space and ended up having only 49% of the votes in the new composition.

Taking advantage of the control over Conama in the meeting, the government:

– Repealed resolutions 302 and 303, from 2002, which established protection of mangroves and sandbanks, fundamental areas for the balance and preservation of biodiversity; with the argument that the Forest Code already regulates the occupation of these areas. The maneuver removes the only licensing instruments to benefit the real estate/tourism and shrimp farmers;

– Revoked resolution 284/2001, ending federal rules for environmental licensing of agricultural irrigation projects and meeting the demands of part of the agribusiness;

– Approved a new rule allowing the incineration in industrial ovens of packaging and remnants of pesticides for the production of cement, eliminating the regulations that defined adequate environmental disposal of the material.

Before the meeting, environmentalists, congressmen and federal prosecutors asked for the removal of those items from the agenda; a lawsuit called for the suspension of the reunion, without success. UOL pointed out that “the result clearly exposes the way the government started to control an organ that, due to its mission and history, has always had a technical and independent composition”.

As soon as the Minister revoked those regulations, members of the parliament went to court to overturn the decisions and filed a suit at the Supreme Federal Court (STF) and in the Chamber of Deputies. On the 29th, the Federal Court of Rio suspended the 135th meeting of Conama and all its acts and revocations. The injunction of the 23rd Federal Criminal Court upheld a request for popular action against Conama’s measures. The Federal Attorney General appealed and a federal court overturned the injunction on October 2nd. On October 1st, Justice Rosa Weber, from the STF, gave minister Salles a 48-hour period to provide information about Conama’s decisions.

Under pressure from investors, JBS tries to unlink itself from deforestation

São José Farm, in Pará State, supplier of cattle to JBS, had hotspots during the “Day of the Fire”, on August, 2019

Crédito: Christian Braga/Greenpeace

23 Sep 20

Under pressure from investors, JBS tries to unlink itself from deforestation

The record increase in fires and deforestation rates is reducing Brazil’s attractiveness for foreign investors. According to the newspaper O Globo, in the first eight months of 2020, more than US$15 billion in capitals left the country, the highest volume since 1982. Analysts and managers believe that the environmental crisis may worsen this situation. In an audience at the Supreme Federal Court (STF) on climate change on the 22nd, the former president of the Central Bank, Armínio Fraga, spoke about the worsening of Brazil’s image abroad: “Deforestation and other environmental crimes, in addition to aggravating the global problem, bring enormous risk to the agribusiness ecosystem, our most successful sector, and also to the energy supply in our country “.

Sensing the pressure, on the 23rd, JBS, the largest animal protein producer in the world, launched a plan to “increase the siege on the beef supply chain (…) to ensure that the meat that reaches the consumer does not contribute to the overthrow of the Amazon: the suppliers of their suppliers“. The so-called “Green Platform JBS” intends to use blockchain technology to process data from all farms, whether owned by direct or indirect suppliers to verify compliance with social-environmental legislation. JBS (owner of the Friboi and Seara brands) also announced the creation of a fund with an initial value of R$ 250 million to finance conservation and economic development actions in the region.

JBS ‘“Green Platform” plans to have full control of direct and indirect cattle suppliers by 2025. Environmentalists recognized the importance of the plan but criticized the five-year deadline to clean up the production chain and questioned the company’s ability to carry out such measures without support from the government.

Nordic investment funds Nordea Asset and KLP, which have already banned JBS from their portfolios, also consider that the proposal presented by the company has a term “too long to be satisfactory”. With R$ 3.4 trillion of assets in its portfolio, the Finnish Nordea Asset banned JBS from its portfolio in July, after a joint press investigation revealed that the slaughterhouse bought cattle raised in an area of ​​deforestation in the Amazon.

An investigation by the NGO Repórter Brasil, disclosed on the eve of the announcement by the agribusiness giant, reaffirmed the problems in the JBS production chain. Part of the fire that devastated Mato Grosso’s Pantanal originated from ranchers’ farms that sell cattle to the Amaggi and Bom Futuro groups, which supply not only to JBS but also to other multinationals like Marfrig and Minerva. The survey was based on a study by the NGO Instituto Centro e Vida, which identified the origin of the fires in five properties in Mato Grosso, analyzing fire hotspots between July 1 and August 17, 2020.

Covid-19: more than 700 Yanomami infected; malaria and invasion of gold diggers increase risks to indigenous group

Illegal gold diggers invasion in Yanomami lands on May, 2020

Crédito: Chico Batata

23 Sep 20

Covid-19: more than 700 Yanomami infected; malaria and invasion of gold diggers increase risks to indigenous group

Covid-19 has infected over 700 Yanomami have already, according to a September 22 bulletin from the Special Yanomami Indigenous Sanitary District (Dsei-Y). Seven indigenous individuals died in six different villages of the Yanomami Indigenous Land (IL). According to the District’s Indigenous Health Council (Condisi-Y), the federal government has not sent medics and medicines to the territory. Junior Yanomami, head of Condisi-Y, said that the government has abandoned the indigenous and that the health structure for the district is insufficient, having only one health professional for each 1,000 indigenous residents.

In a statement, the Ministry of Health denied the abandonment and mentioned an inter-ministerial mission that visited the Yanomami IL in June to fight the pandemic. The expedition became the target of a Federal Prosecution investigation for suspicion of violation of the isolation measures adopted by the communities, and also for distributing hydroxychloroquine — an unproven medication — to the indigenous to treat the coronavirus.

With over 9,000 hectares, the IL Yanomami is the largest in Brazil and sprawls across the states of Roraima and Amazonas. There are 26,780 indigenous living on the reservation. Besides the Covid-19 pandemic, the Yanomami also face high incidence of malaria, a tropical disease endemic to the Amazon and transmitted by mosquitoes. Malaria is a comorbidity that increases the death rate for coronavirus among indigenous peoples. According to data from Condisi -Y, between January 1st and August 12th, 2020, over 13,000 cases of malaria were reported in the Yanomami indigenous lands, with 9 deaths. In August, the Pro-Yanomami and Ye’kwana Network, which is monitoring the pandemic inside the indigenous territory, informed that out of all Covid-19 confirmed deaths, three were also malaria patients.

The rise in malaria and Covid-19 cases is related to the invasion of illegal gold diggers, that promote deforestation and spread diseases. Around 20,000 illegal gold diggers have entered the reservation this year alone. In June, the campaign against gold digging at Yanomami lands, #ForaGarimpoForaCovid, was launched with the aim to gather 500,000 signatures. The initiative is a joint effort between ISA (Socio-Environmental Institute), Yanomami Leadership Forum and Ye’kwana; and from Hutukara Yanomami Association (HAY), Wanasseduume Ye’kwana Association (SEDUUME), Yanomami Kumirayoma Women Association (AMYK), Association Texoli Ninam from Roraima State (TANER) and Yanomami Association from Cauaburis river and Affluents (AYRCA).

Crisis at Ministry of the Environment deepens with accusations from workers and militarization of key positions

The dismantling of the Ministry is being denounced since Salles took office

Crédito: Marcelo Camargo/Agência Brasil

22 Sep 20

Crisis at Ministry of the Environment deepens with accusations from workers and militarization of key positions

On September 4,  Ascema, the National Association of Environmental Public Servants presented a dossier called “Chronology of a disaster in waiting: Bolsonaro’s government action to dismantle environmental policies in Brazil”. The document details the dismantling of the governance structure of the Ministry of the Environment and its agencies Ibama and ICMBio since 2018, and it was sent by Ascema to the National Congress, to the UN and to NGOs Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.  

Even under growing pressure, the Minister of the Environment announced fresh changes to the structure of the ministry. On the 21st,  the minister replaced the head of the Biodiversity Secretary and nominated a former agribusiness lobbyist to run the recently created Secretary of the Amazon and Environmental Services

On the 22nd, minister Ricardo Salles confirmed the nomination of Military Police Colonel Fernando Cesar Lorencini as the new president for ICMBio. He has occupied the position provisionally since August; his nomination was published in the Official Diary of the Union signed by Minister Braga Netto, president’s Bolsonaro Chief of Staff.  Besides the military ranking at the head of a biodiversity agency, colonel Lorencini’s nomination drew attention because he was part of the police squad involved in the massacre of the Carandiru Public Prison in 1992 in São Paulo, when the police raid ended with 111 inmates killed.

In speech at UNGA, Bolsonaro lies about Brazilian environmental crisis

“We are leaders of rainforest conservation”, said the president while epic fires ravage Brazil

Crédito: TV Brasil/Reproduction

22 Sep 20

In speech at UNGA, Bolsonaro lies about Brazilian environmental crisis

On September 21st, on the eve of Bolsonaro’s speech at the UN General Assembly, Brazilian chancellor Ernesto Araújo refused to accept a debate, promoted by United Nations Human Rights Council, about the crisis in the Amazon.  According to reports by the website UOL, directly from the UN in Geneva, the diplomat was reacting to the fact that for the first time in its democratic period Brazil became the target of an official recommendation for an international investigation on the federal government policies for the environment and human rights in Brazil. 

It was amid this awkward atmosphere of attacks from the Brazilian diplomacy to the UN that president Bolsonaro took his pre-recorded speech to the opening ceremony of the 75th UN General Assembly on the 22nd. During a roughly 14 minutes speech, Bolsonaro defended his government’s performance on the environment, blamed indigenous and traditional communities for the record forest fires this season, and complained that Brazil was a victim of an international misinformation campaign about deforestation. He also claimed that the country has the best environmental legislation of the planet and is a leader on “forest conservation”. The president used the opportunity to defend the agribusiness sector and deny the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, which disproportionately affected indigenous and quilombola communities. 

Civil society organizations such as the Climate Observatory (OC) prepared to fact-check the president’s statements in real time, and detected a high number of lies and fake news. In a press release, OC said that “by simultaneously denying the environmental crisis and the pandemic, the president provides a soundtrack for divestment and cancelling of international trade agreements in a critical post-Covid 19 time of economic recovery”. WWF-Brazil said that Bolsonaro made unfounded accusations and anti-science conclusions that are not aligned with the role of a Chief of State.  Buzzfeed published a test about what was real and what was fake in the Brazilian president’s speech at the UN.

Campaign aims to reduce forest fires in Santarém (PA)

Initiative raises awareness about safe use of fires for preparing the soil

Crédito: Projeto Saúde & Alegria/Handout

21 Sep 20

Campaign aims to reduce forest fires in Santarém (PA)

The campaign “United community preserves life” was launched in Santarém, Pará State, with the aim of preventing accidental forest fires that originate from controlled bush burning practised by small farmers and traditional

Amazon communities. The initiative offers guidance on how to prepare the soil with safety and how to get permits from related authorities and introducing techniques for cultivating without using fire. Many local stakeholders got together to run the campaign, including federal Institute Chico Mendes for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio) and its field programs at the Tapajos National Forest and Extractivist Reserve (Resex) Tapajós-Arapiuns, Pará state Civil Guard, the 4th Fire Department and community groups such as the Federation of the Tapajos National Forest, The Resex-Tapajoara Organization and NGOs such as Projeto Saúde e Alegria. 

 One year ago, forest fires in the Santarém and Alter do Chão regions gained international attention after a state police inquiry led to the preventive arrest of voluntary firefighters (brigadistas) that worked with environmental NGOs in the region.  In August 2020, after months of official investigation, the Federal Police dismissed the participation of the brigadistas in the forest fires.

Supreme Court holds unprecedented hearing about environmental crisis

Authorities, experts, civil society and government officials were invited

Crédito: Marcelo Camargo/Agência Brasil

21 Sep 20

Supreme Court holds unprecedented hearing about environmental crisis

On September 21 and 22, the Supreme Federal Court (STF) held a virtual public hearing to discuss the Brazilian environmental crisis and the global context of climate emergency. Justice Luís Roberto Barroso summoned the hearing as the rapporteur of a suit brought by four parties (Rede, PSOL, PSB and PT), that accuses the Ministry of the Environment of paralysing, since 2019, the National Fund on Climate Change, one of the main financing instruments in the fight against global warming.

Barroso invited dozens of authorities and experts from academia, civil society, the private sector and government to create an overview of the country’s environmental situation. For the minister, the fund situation illustrates a set of actions and omissions that may represent a general state of unconstitutionality. The hearing began on the eve of President Bolsonaro’s speech at the opening of the UN General Assembly.

Among the authorities present, the president of the Chamber of Deputies, Rodrigo Maia, said that the fires in the Amazon hinder Brazilian agribusiness abroad. The Minister of Science and Technology, Marcos Pontes, recognized the relationship between forest fires and global warming. The Minister of the Institutional Security Office (GSI), General Augusto Heleno, defended the federal government’s role in the environmental agenda, saying that there was no omission and that critics want to attack President Bolsonaro. Repeating arguments from other sectors of the government, Heleno criticized the work of NGOs, accusing them of serving foreign and ideological interests and repeated that the causes of forest fires are natural.

The question of mining in the Amazon was also on the agenda; Heleno defended the regularization of mining activities inside indigenous lands.

Government declares war on Inpe for monitoring deforestation

VP once again shows contempt for Inpe

Crédito: Valter Campanato/Agência Brasil

20 Sep 20

Government declares war on Inpe for monitoring deforestation

On September 15th, vice president Hamilton Mourão accused public servant experts from Inpe, the National Institute on Space Research, of making political opposition to the federal government. According to the VP, positive results about reducing forest fires were not being publicized by the Institute — that is the federal organ in charge of monitoring deforestation in Brazil.  “Someone from the inside is opposing the government. I want to make this very clear here”, he said, citing official data that showed that the country registered 5,000 fire hotspots less in 2020 compared to the same period on January-August 2019. However, data from Inpe contradicts the VP’s narrative, indicating that there were more fires in the Amazon in the first two weeks of September 2020 (20,485 hotspots) than for the entire month of September in 2019 (19,925 hotspots). 

According to satellite monitoring experts, Inpe’s system is unique in the world, allowing real time follow up, data transparency and civil society participation. 

Beyond the attacks coming from the presidential wing, in an inquiry at the Unions Finance Court (TCU) about the purchase of satellite images, the Federal Police declared that Inpe provoques disinformation against new monitoring initiatives in order to maintain control over the narrative and knowledge of deforestation in Brazil. The Federal Police also called Inpe’s work “insufficient” and accused it of not doing enough for public safety. On September 19th, finance court minister Ana Arraes suspended the R$49 million reais contract between the Federal Police and satellite company Planet, alleging that the purchased system does not aggregate advantages when compared to the technology already in use by Inpe. The contract between the Federal Police and the company Planet was funded by the Ministry of Justice. 

Three days later, Norway’s Ministry of Climate and Environment announced an international deal with Kongsberg Satellite Services together with companies Planet and Airbus to supply free, universal access to tropical forest satellite monitoring in the world, including Brazil. According to the Norwegian government, Planet will supply high resolution maps and monthly updated information for visualization and download, as informed by website O Eco.

Government antagonizes environmentalists campaigns and threatens indigenous organization

Campaign by Brazilian activists got international attention

Credit: Defund Bolsonaro/Handout

18 Sep 20

Government antagonizes environmentalists campaigns and threatens indigenous organization

Fake news, misinformation and accusations of crimes against the homeland: that was how members of the Bolsonaro government reacted to campaigns and denunciations by civil society about deforestation and forest fires in the Amazon, Cerrado and Pantanal regions. President Bolsonaro set the tone of the reaction: in his weekly live broadcast on September 3, he compared NGOs working in defense of the Amazon to a “cancer”.

The president referred to the movement launched by Brazilian activists at the end of August with the motto “Defund Bolsonaro”, which angered government supporters. The campaign video says that Bolsonaro allows the destruction of the Amazon with the support of large companies and ends with the challenge: “Which side are you on? The Amazon or Bolsonaro?”. Civil society entities such as the Climate Observatory and the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil Network (APIB) helped to disseminate the material. There was an organized movement to bring down the initiative’s Instagram profile. According to a report in the newspaper O Globo, messages with instructions to report the campaign circulated in WhatsApp groups on September 6th.

On the 9th, the Minister of the Environment, Ricardo Salles, Vice President Hamilton Mourão and Federal Deputy Eduardo Bolsonaro shared a “video response” that declared that the Amazon was not burning, withheld data from National Space Research Institute (Inpe) and used images of the tamarin golden lion, an endangered species that lives only in the Atlantic Rainforest, thousands of miles away from the Amazon. The video had English narration and was signed by the ruralist association of Pará State. Part of the images that appear in the ruralist video were from the Greenpeace collection and, therefore, used without authorization. The NGO requested the takedown of the video for infringing copyrights and the piece ended up being removed from Twitter.

Actor Leonardo DiCaprio, meanwhile, retweeted the original “Defund Bolsonaro” video, generating a new wave of reactions. The government’s denialist speech was countered by NGOs and experts with data from Inpe who pointed out that the number of hot spots in the Amazon between January 1 and September 9, 2020, is the highest in the last ten years, with a 6% growth when compared to 2019.

On September 13, false posts on social networks accused NGOs of being responsible for the fires in the Amazon. The posts used a 2014 photo of indigenous people arresting illegal loggers as if the image was current and the detainees were members of NGOs. Several fact-checking agencies pointed to the posts as fake news.

The following week, it was the turn of General Augusto Heleno, chief minister of the Institutional Security Office (GSI) of the Presidency of the Republic, to attack Apib for supporting the Defund Bolsonaro campaign. In a post published on his social media profiles, Heleno accused Apib of being the organization behind the campaign website, whose objectives would be “to publish fake news against Brazil, to impute environmental crimes to the President of the Republic and to support a worldwide boycott against Brazilian products”. The general also affirmed that Sônia Bone Guajajara, coordinator of Apib, is linked to Leonardo DiCaprio, “a staunch critic of the country” and concluded by saying that “the Apib website is associated with several others who work 24 hours a day to tarnish our image on abroad and commit crimes against the homeland“.

In a note, Apib rejected the general’s statement, saying that “the biggest crime that harms our country is the government’s failure to curb the destruction of our biomes, aid protected areas, stop illegal fires, land grabbing, deforestation and the invasion of our lands and theft of our wealth. On the eve of the UN General Assembly, the whole world is witnessing this crime – too big to be concealed (…). The accusations, besides being frivolous and misleading, are irresponsible because they put at risk the personal safety of those mentioned. Apib will study the appropriate measures“.

Brazilian environmental crisis puts EU-Mercosur agreement under threat

Tensão em torno do acordo já estava presente na última reunião do G20, em 2019.

Crédito: Marcos Corrêa/PR/Via Agência Brasil

18 Sep 20

Brazilian environmental crisis puts EU-Mercosur agreement under threat

The rumours that European countries would block the EU-Mercosur trade agreement due to the Brazilian environmental crisis were getting steam among european diplomats in June 2020 according to reports from El País. By late August, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she had “considerable doubts”  about her support for the agreement because of the rise in Amazon deforestation. 

In September, while Brazil broke new records on forest fires and deforestation rates, the trade agreement was once again threatened, and pressure from corporations and investment funds over the Brazilian government also increased.

On the 09th, an international team of researchers from universities of Oxford (UK), Louvain (Belgium) and Columbia (USA) published a critical analysis of the EU-Mercosur agreement saying that the text of the deal does not secure mechanisms for transparency, sanction and inclusion of local communities, going against environmental regulations from the European Union. The study indicates that the agreement fails to guarantee sustainable chains of production. In that same week, the International Trade Commission from the European Parliament issued a motion demanding more protection rules on the block trade agreements, in yet another sign of the obstacles to ratifying the treaty. 

A week later, on September 15th, two significant open letters tried to exert pressure on the Brazilian government. VP Hamilton Mourao received a document signed by ambassadors from 8 European nations — Germany, UK, France, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Denmark and Belgium — with a clear message: “Brazil is making it harder and harder for corporations and investors to comply with their environmental, social and governance criteria”. The countries who sent the letter take part in the Amsterdam Declaration, a partnership among nations to promote sustainable chains of production that prevent forest destruction.

In the other letter, a coalition formed by 230 organizations and companies linked to agribusiness and environment published a set of six proposals to stop Amazon deforestation. The document was sent to president Bolsonaro, VP Mourão, Federal Ministers, leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives, and embassies and members of the European Parliament. “Not only because of the social-environmental losses, but also because of the threats that forest destruction poses to the national economy. There is a clear and growing concern about deforestation from several sectors of national and international society”,  states the letter signed by the Coalition, which includes NGOs such as WWF and agribusiness companies such as JBS, Marfrig, Basf and Bayer. 

Meanwhile, in France, over 20 civil society organizations issued a statement on the 16th demanding the “final burial” of the EU-Mercosur treaty because of the “disastrous impacts” on forests, climate and human rights. The NGOs manifest came out on the eve of a technical report commissioned by the French government on the effects of the commercial agreement. 

On the 18th,  the French government report was published.  According to reports on the 184 page-study by independent experts on economy and the environment, it concludes that “the agreement is a missed opportunity by the EU to use its negotiation power to obtain solid safeguards that respond to the environmental, sanitary and social expectations of its citizens”. The experts estimate that deforestation in Mercosur countries could accelerate by 5% per year due to higher demand for beef in the EU,  increasing greenhouse gas emissions and questioning whether the relative financial gains of the agreement could compensate for the climate damage it would generate. 

Upon the release of the study, president Emmanuel Macron’s government confirmed it will maintain opposition to the treaty as it stands, a position they have been sustaining since 2019, and that it is willing to renegotiate the terms of the accord to secure the Paris Agreement climate objectives.

Mining in Indigenous lands will increase Amazon deforestation and economic losses, new study shows

Bolsonaro’s bill could lead to 160,000 km2 of deforestation in the Amazon

Crédito: Marcio Isensee e Sa/iStock

18 Sep 20

Mining in Indigenous lands will increase Amazon deforestation and economic losses, new study shows

A new study led by Australian and Brazilian researchers from public universities and the NGO Instituto Socioambiental (Isa) published on scientific magazine One Earth concluded that Bill 191/2020, which aims at allowing mining in indigenous reserves, may lead to the destruction of 160,000 km2 of Amazon forests, or the equivalent to 20 years of deforestation. The research also shows that the bill may cause economic damages of over US$5 billion due to loss of environmental services and agroforestry production. In February 2020, president Bolsonaro sent the bill to the National Congress, where it’s being analysed by the Senate and House of Representatives.

Massive fires in Pantanal threaten indigenous peoples, kill animals and rings climate alert

Fires have ravaged, until mid-September, 23% of Pantanal biome

Crédito: Rogerio Florentino/Greenpeace

15 Sep 20

Massive fires in Pantanal threaten indigenous peoples, kill animals and rings climate alert

From January to August, fires in the Pantanal had already burned 18,646 km2, or 12% of the total area of ​​the biome, according to data from the National Institute for Space Research (INPE). INPE also detected 10,316 fires from the beginning of the year until September 3, the highest rate for the period since 1998, when it started to monitor the area. Until that week, the data indicated that in the state of Mato Grosso, 95% of the destruction occurred in areas of native vegetation, according to the NGO Instituto Centro e Vida (ICV). On September 15, the state was the national champion of fires with almost 2,200 hot spots, accumulating 60% of the flames in the country, according to INPE. Alone, Mato Grosso State burned more in that span than the other eight states in the Legal Amazon. Since the fires weren’t controlled, by mid-September, they had already ravaged 23% of the Pantanal biome.

The Pantanal is one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet, home to around 1200 species of vertebrate animals, including endangered species and the most dense jaguar population in the world. Until 2020, it was also one of the better preserved biomes in the country. In Mato Grosso, the flames have already consumed over 90% of the area of ​​a sanctuary for the blue macaw. The species probably will return to the threatened with extinction list after the fires. The images of jaguars, anteaters, snakes and birds, dead and injured, have gained social media and shocked Brazil and the world.

A report by El País showed that the spread of fire to areas of indigenous reserves, such as the fire in the Indigenous Land Thereza Cristina, of the Boe Bororo people, forced the state government of Mato Grosso to declare an emergency on September 14. More than 100 bororo were hastily removed due to poor air quality; authorities took elderly and pregnant women to the Indigenous Health Center in Rondonópolis. After escaping the fire, the bororo ended up exposed to the coronavirus pandemic. In Rondonópolis, there were 156 confirmed cases of Covid-19 among indigenous people, in addition to 13 suspects and 31 patients, according to the Special Indigenous Sanitary District of Cuiabá, the State capital.

A similar situation occurred in the Xingu Indigenous Park, 900 kilometers away from Cuiabá, the second indigenous land most affected by fires in Mato Grosso. Sixteen houses were burned at the Diauarum post, in the center of the reservation. About six thousand indigenous people of 16 ethnic groups live in the park. In mid-September, 116 indigenous persons were in isolation in the Xingu due to the new coronavirus; 333 cases had already been confirmed.

Pantanal women who live on agro-extractivism (such as the collection of fruits and nuts) are also disproportionately affected by fires. The groups of women supported by the work of the NGO Ecoa – Ecology and Action, in Campo Grande (MS), lost areas of traditional crops in the region, such as bocaiúva, laranjinha-de-pacu and acuri, compromising their source of subsistence and income, in addition to the fire directly threatening their homes. “Here in Mato Grosso do Sul, for example, they are surrounded by monocultures and pesticides. The fires affected directly the reforestation work with native species that they lead”, reported the activist Nathália Eberhardt Ziolkowski.

According to NASA data cited in a report by the Reuters news agency, changes in ocean temperatures are a likely factor in creating drought conditions in the Pantanal and in the southern part of the Amazon, where the fires in August were the biggest in the last ten years.

In 2020, Pantanal experiences one of the worst droughts in its history, with rainfall 40% below the average of previous years. The main river in the biome, the Paraguay River, has the worst level of the watercourse in the last fifty years, aggravating the progress of the fire. According to measurements by the Geological Survey of Brazil, checked by UOL, the Paraguay River is registering one of the 13 weakest ebbs in the last 120 years. For researchers, human interference in the biome with livestock activities and expansion of the agricultural frontier, in addition to the growth of cities, may be exceeding the limits of what the Pantanal supports.

On September 20, dozens of civil society organizations and hundreds of individuals signed and forwarded an open letter to the Supreme Federal Court (STF) asking for the removal and civil, criminal and administrative responsibility of those responsible, by default or action, for the burning of the Pantanal.

Government does not spend on environmental policies, increases budget for big farmers and weakens land reform

Deter/Inpe system detects fires in recently deforested area in Porto Velho, Rondônia State

Crédito: Christian Braga /Greenpeace

12 Sep 20

Government does not spend on environmental policies, increases budget for big farmers and weakens land reform

The Climate Observatory (OC), a network of civil society organizations, analyzed data from the federal government’s Integrated Planning and Budget System and concluded that in the first eight months of 2020, the Ministry of the Environment executed just over 0.4% of its budget.

The OC survey released on September 11 shows that the budget execution of direct actions by the ministry until August 31 was R$105.000 out of a total of R$26.5 million. “The urban agenda, the minister’s priority, only spent R$18.000”, asserts the entity’s technical note. The government should have used the money to plan for environmental actions. For example, the biodiversity plan had a budget of more than R$1 million but spent only R$ 50.000 in the period. Other agendas, such as the promotion of studies on climate change, did not implement even a dime of its resources.

In addition, Bolsonaro administration cut funds from strategic areas for the prevention and control of forest fires in federal lands. Even with the increase of about 30% in burnings in the Amazon and the record fires in the Pantanal, the expected expenditure on contracting fire-fighting personnel fell from R$23.78 million in 2019 to R$9.99 million in 2020, a reduction of 58% according to official data from the Portal da Transparência [Transparency Portal].

In another measure related to federal spending and land use policies, Bolsonaro administration sent to Congress a budget proposal, in early September, for the National Institute for Agrarian Reform (INCRA) that practically zeroed the budget for actions aimed at landless populations and improvements in settlements in rural areas in 2021. Approximately 90% of the resources destined to the recognition and indemnification of quilombola territories and credit lines to settled families were cut; conflict monitoring and peacemaking actions in the countryside lost 82% of their funds.

The same proposal increases the amount destined to great landowners who suffered expropriation. Analysts indicate that the measure deepens the dismantling of INCRA, initiated under Michel Temer’s administration, and it could result in the extinction of agrarian reform in the country. During the election campaign, Bolsonaro called the MST (Movement of Landless Rural Workers) “terrorists”.

Covid-19: Brazilian youth raises R$ 900,000 to support indigenous peoples

Brazilian youth during a protest against the destruction of the environment

Credits: Friday For Future Brasil/via Twitter

24 Aug 20

Covid-19: Brazilian youth raises R$ 900,000 to support indigenous peoples

150 young Brazilians from age 17 to 29, inspired by the organization Fridays for Future, globally promoted by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, collected over R$ 900,000 to support Amazon  indigenous peoples during the pandemic.

The campaign SOS Amazon emphasizes the role of indigenous peoples and river-dwellers in protecting the environment, while also underlining the vulnerable conditions that they are submitted to during the pandemic. “They are facing a health care crisis, loss of income, hunger and threats to their territories”. They used the hashtag #DefendTheDefenders to promote the campaign.

Covid-19: Secretary for Indigenous Health barrs humanitarian aid to Terena people

Terena Council is requesting MSF’s aid since June 24th

Credits: MSF/Handout/via Facebook

19 Aug 20

Covid-19: Secretary for Indigenous Health barrs humanitarian aid to Terena people

According to a public denounce  by the Indigenous People’s Network (APIB),  Robson Santos da Silva, national director for the Special Secretary for Indigenous Health (SESAI), has barred the organization Doctors Without Borders (MSF) from fighting the Covid-19 spread at the Indigenous Land Taunay Ipegue, of the Terena people, in Aquidauana municipality, Mato Grosso do Sul State. The motivation behind the ban on MSF was not disclosed.

APIB states that there is a tragic rise in deaths among the Terena community  because of the disease – 580% in under a month – and that the villages are under “sanitary collapse”. MSF’s support has been a demand by the Terena Council since July 24th. By the end of that month, Covid-19 had killed six individuals. By August 19th, there were 41 dead and 1239 contaminated among the Terena people.

Sanitary authorities review ban on Paraquat, one of the most lethal agrochemicals in the world

Brazil’s Sanitary Agency, Anvisa, might review ban on herbicide

Credits: Ascom/Anvisa

18 Aug 20

Sanitary authorities review ban on Paraquat, one of the most lethal agrochemicals in the world

An ordinance by the National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa), from September, 2017, which banned the use of the herbicide Paraquat, is under review by the agency. The prohibition of Syngenta’s agrochemical was because of evidence that confirms that its use generates genetic mutation and Parkinson’s disease in the workers who have direct contact with it. The prohibition was scheduled to become effective on September, 22, 2020.

However, the sanitary agency had a board meeting on August 18th and the review of the ban was on the agendas. According to the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo, Rômison Mota, rapporteur of the process, voted against the review of the ban deadline, since there was no justifiable reason. Anvisa might discuss the topic again at the next meeting.

In a comprehensive article about the subject, the NGO Repórter Brasil claimed the agency operated with a lack of transparency, since the documents about the meeting weren’t disclosed.

Landowners associations are trying to prove that the paraquat is safe, but there isn’t evidence to support that claim. The agrochemical has already been forbidden in Europe and China. According to Repórter Brasil’s article, the major argument supporting the safety of the agrochemical are two incomplete researches. The Ethics Committee of the Campinas State University (Unicamp) suspended one of them after the NGO pointed out the study as a key-piece of the agribusiness companies campaign to allow the use of Paraquat.

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.

Covid-19: Supreme Court orders government to protect indigenous peoples

Indigenous organizations saw the decision as “positive”

Credits: Fabio Rodrigues Pozzebom/Agência Brasil

5 Aug 20

Covid-19: Supreme Court orders government to protect indigenous peoples

The Brazilian Supreme Court (STF) ratified in its entirety the precautionary decision made by justice Luís Roberto Barroso in June, which obliges Bolsonaro’s government to adopt emergency measures to fight Covid-19 spread among indigenous people. 

Indigenous associations, NGOs and environmentalists are denouncing the government’s neglect since the beginning of the pandemic. Brazil’s Articulation of Indigenous Peoples (APIB), who took part in the STF trial hearings, said the decision was a victory. However, on their website, they faulted the justices decision for “leaving out the issue of the invaders present in 7 indigenous territories.”

According to APIB, the government now shall create isolating barriers for isolated ethnicities, assembling task forces, with government and indigenous representatives, to accompany the progress of the actions against the pandemic and guarantee access and treatment in Brazil’s public health care system for indigenous who live and don’t live in reservations, such as the populations in urban areas.

In the first half of 2020, fires ravaged the Pantanal at unprecedented levels

Forest fires in Pantanal rose by 530% when compared to 2019

Credits: Mayke Toscano/Secom-MT/via Fotos Públicas

23 Jul 20

In the first half of 2020, fires ravaged the Pantanal at unprecedented levels

In 2020, between the months of January and June, the Pantanal biome recorded an increase of 530% in forest fires when compared to the same period in 2019. The data comes from an interactive tool from the NGO Instituto Centro de Vida (ICV) who monitors deforestation hotspots in Mato Grosso State over the yearly season when the State government prohibits fires in rural properties. The fires prohibition, usually issued around  July 15th, this year  came earlier, starting on July 1st and running until September 30th 2020.

The data, open for public consultation on the ICV website, also points out that even though the prohibition season started earlier, there was a 12% rise in fires hotspots in July when compared to the same month in the previous year.

A federal order issued by president Jair Bolsonaro and the minister of the Environment, Ricardo Salles on July 16th, prohibited the use of fires in rural properties in the Pantanal and Amazonia regions. The measure was considered too late in its purposes to contain deforestation and contains a problematic article that allows burning “in areas outside of the Pantanal and Legal Amazon areas when essential to farming activities.”

Brazil’s VP says that the country is “late” to fight Amazon’ deforestation

Vice President Mourão criticizes MMA’s survey systems

Credits: Marcello Casal Jr/Agência Brasil

10 Jul 20

Brazil’s VP says that the country is “late” to fight Amazon’ deforestation

After a meeting with CEOs from several large Brazilian corporations, Brazil’s vice president Hamilton Mourão declared to the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo that the government actions to fight deforestation and forest fires in the Amazon were “late”.

He recalled the Amazon Council, presided by him, which the government launched in February. He stated the actions “should have started in December or January, at the latest”. NGOs and environmentalists have been criticizing the council for its lack of a clear agenda or budget.

VP Mourão also blamed the coronavirus pandemic for lack of investments in land use monitoring systems. However,  the National Institute of Space Research (Inpe) keeps raising deforestation alerts that the government chooses to ignore”, according to the NGO Greenpeace. Ibama, the Brazilian Environmental Agency,  uses Inpe’s alerts to fight forest fires and other environmental crimes. During April 2020, the alerts by the System of Deforestation Detection in Real Time (Deter) rose by 64% when compared to the same month in 2019.

The government’s budget for the Ministry of the Environment suffered a 10% cut from 2019 to 2020, affecting the prevention and control of forest fires. 

An analysis published in December 2019 had already shown that the Ministry of the Environment did not spend a cent of the authorized R$ 8 million budget from the National Fund on Climate Change, destined to produce studies, projects and enterprises to mitigate and adapt to climate change. 

Ricardo Salles, the minister of the environment, also attended the meeting to speak about carbon credits defined by the Paris Agreement. 

Amazon’s deforestation rate in June is the highest in 5 years

Inpe: June’s 2020 deforestation equals the area of Belem, capital of Pará

Credits: Vinícius Mendonça/Ibama/via CC

10 Jul 20

Amazon’s deforestation rate in June is the highest in 5 years

Data from the National Institute of Space Research (Inpe) show that June 2020 had the highest deforestation rates of the last five years. According to the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo, the deforestation was equivalent to the area of the city of Belém, capital of Pará State, and rose by 10,65% when compared to the same month in 2019. Márcio Astrini, executive-secretary of the network Climate Observatory (Observatório do Clima), said that the government tries to convey a deceptive image that it preserves the Amazon but “the numbers prove otherwise: Bolsonaro’s government is actively collaboration to the destruction of the largest tropical rainforest in the planet”. He added that “under Bolsonaro, we live the worst moment ever regarding Brazil’s environmental agenda.”

Minister of Environment nullifies his own order to give amnesty to Atlantic Rainforest Destroyers

Decision came after strong pressure from MPF and environmentalists

Credits: Edilson Rodrigues/Agência Senado/CC BY 2.0

4 Jun 20

Minister of Environment nullifies his own order to give amnesty to Atlantic Rainforest Destroyers

The minister of the Environment, Ricardo Salles, has nullified his own order 4.410/2020, issued on April 6th, that recognized as legal properties the deforested areas located inside Permanent Conservation Areas (APPs) in the Atlantic Rainforest. The minister retrieved his proposal after strong pressure from Justice and civil society. On May 5th, the Federal Public Prosecution Office filed a lawsuit asking for the nullifying of Salles’s order due to its illegal nature and the threat posed to the biome, which is considered by environmentalists as the most vulnerable in the country.

Covid -19: Illegal gold digging camps expose 40% of the Yanomami to the pandemic

Gold mining camps are a major Covid-19 vector for indigenous peoples

Crédito: Leonardo Prado/PG/Fotos Públicas

2 Jun 20

Covid -19: Illegal gold digging camps expose 40% of the Yanomami to the pandemic

A study called “The pandemic impact at the Yanomami Indigenous Land: #OutWithGoldminingAndCovid”, by the Socioambiental Institute (ISA) in a partnership with the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG), points that almost 40% of the yanomami indigenous people who live close to illegal gold mining areas at the Indigenous Land Yanomami (TIY) may become infected with the new coronavirus. The research considers invading  gold miners as the major vectors of transmission inside the demarcated territory. The report concluded that the Yanomami Indigenous Land is the most vulnerable territory in the Amazon regarding Covid-19,  once it faces high social vulnerability, precarious local health infrastructure and a history of respiratory ailments among its population.

Endangered Atlantic Rainforest suffers 30% rise in deforestation

Caparaó National Park forest, located in Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo

Crédito: Heris Luiz Cordeiro Rocha/via CC BY-SA

27 May 20

Endangered Atlantic Rainforest suffers 30% rise in deforestation

The deforestation of the Atlantic Rainforest rose by 30%, when comparing 2018 to 2019, during the first year of Bolsonaro’s government. The NGO SOS Mata Atlântica revealed the data in a report by, who also points that since 2016 the deforestation rates were in decline. The biome is the most devastated and endangered in Brazil, with 12% of its original coverage and it has one of the richest biodiversities in the world. In April, the Brazilian minister of the Environment, Ricardo Salles, issued an order that recognized as legal properties deforested areas of the Atlantic Rainforest inside Permanent Preservation Areas (APPs), which allows rural farming in these territories and violates the Federal Forest Code.

NGOs demand ousting of environment minister; agribusiness corporations want him to stay

Salles suggestions to deregulate environmental norms faced public protest

Credits: Handout

26 May 20

NGOs demand ousting of environment minister; agribusiness corporations want him to stay

NGOs and civil society organizations published a full-page ad at the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo and repudiated the suggestions from the environment minister, Ricardo Salles, to deregulate environmental laws and norms while the pandemic distracted the public and the press. The text, signed by Greenpeace, World Wildlife Fund (WWF), SOS Mata Atlântica, Socioenvironmental Institute (ISA), ClimaInfo, and the Climate Observatory asked for the firing of the minister.

Two days later , 70 agribusiness and corporate organizations, among them the National Agriculture and Stock Farming Association (CNA) and Soy Producers Associations (Aprosoja Brasil), published a response in the same space. They wrote that the “bureaucracy is destructive” and fully supported Minister Salles.

House of Representatives tries to vote provisional measure that legalizes land grabbing

Deforestation and burning for pasture are marks of land grabbing

Crédito: Ibama/via Fotos Públicas

11 May 20

House of Representatives tries to vote provisional measure that legalizes land grabbing

During the pandemic, the Brazilian House of Representatives tried to vote the Provisional Measure (MP) 910/2019, issued by president Bolsonaro and dubbed “Land grabbers PM” by its critics. To become law, the House has to vote the MP until May 19th, when it expires. The MP will make legal and register rural properties of up to 1400 hectares invaded by land grabbers in the Amazon. It also allows ownership of properties invaded until 2018. Law-makers and civil society consider the measure unconstitutional.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said that the measure doesn’t work as a tool for land-title regularization, as their proponents defend. Instead, WWF says it promotes “amnesty to illegalities”. Another NGO, the Socioambiental Institute (ISA), alleges that the MP “facilitates public land-grabbing” and increases pressure on indigenous lands.

Amazon deforestation alerts rise by 63,75%  in comparison to 2019

Illegal logging at the Indigenous Land Pirititi

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

8 May 20

Amazon deforestation alerts rise by 63,75% in comparison to 2019

Data from the National Institute of Space Research (Inpe) shows that the Amazon deforestation alerts transmitted by the System of Detection of Deforestation in Real Time (Deter) rose by 64,75% in April, compared to the same month in 2019. The Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Ibama) uses the Deter alerts to monitor and substantiate their inspections and control operations. Greenpeace said that the government “ignores” the alerts and “weakens the environmental control with the exoneration of Ibama’s personnel”. When president Bolsonaro took office, in February 2019, the Ministry of the Environment exonerated 21 from 27 regional Ibama inspectors. By the end of 2019, the number of environmental fines had dropped by 34% when compared to the previous year, the lowest record in the past 24 years.

The increase in deforestation alerts happened even though on April 7th, president Bolsonaro had issued a Law and Order Guarantee (GLO) decree that authorized sending army troops to fight forest fires in the Legal Amazon. GLO missions only occur, according to Brazil’s legislation, when “traditional public security forces resources have been exhausted” and can only be executed via presidential sanction.

Indigenous  of the Uru-eu-wau-wau people is found dead in Rondônia State

Ari Uru-eu-wau-wau was threatened for months

Crédito: Gabriel Uchida/Kanindé/via Cimi

20 Apr 20

Indigenous of the Uru-eu-wau-wau people is found dead in Rondônia State

Ari Uru-eu-wau-wau, 33, of the Uru-eu-wau-wau people, was found dead on the night of the 18th on the side of a road in Tarilândia, a district of the Jaru municipality, Rondônia State in the Amazon. Ari belonged to a vigilance group that denounced and registered illegal logging operations at indigenous territory.

According to a Karipuna representative, Ari was being threatened by loggers with several occurrences in the last few months. The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-Brasil), the Ethnic-environmental Defense Association (Kanindé) and the Missionary Indigenist Council (Cimi) confirmed the information.

The indigenous territory Uru-eu-wau-wau is considered by environmentalists as one of the most important in Rondônia, harbouring 17 river springs, rich biodiversity and several threatened animal species. Yet still Uru-eu-wau-wau faces one of the highest deforestation rates in the state.

Minister of the Environment signs amnesty to Atlantic Rainforest destroyers

Environmentalists say that Salles measure brings legal uncertainty

Crédito: Palácio do Planalto/Carolina Antunes/PR/CC BY 2.0

6 Apr 20

Minister of the Environment signs amnesty to Atlantic Rainforest destroyers

Brazil’s Minister of the Environment, Ricardo Salles, issued order 4.410/2020, following a recommendation from the Federal Attorney’s Office (AGU) that recognizes as consolidated areas the Permanent Preservation Areas (APPs) at the Atlantic Rainforest that were deforested. This allows landowners to resume production in their properties. The measure responds to an old demand by farmer’s organizations and provides an amnesty to rural landowners responsible for the destruction of crucial areas of the biome until 2008. The order uses the Forest Code, a general law, to hurt the Atlantic Rainforest Law, a special legislation that forbids the occupation of deforested areas in the biome. The Climate Observatory (Observatório do Clima), an environmental coalition, published a technical note calling entities to question the minister’s decision in the judicial sphere.

Mario Mantovani, the director of the NGO SOS Atlantic Rainforest, in an interview for Folha de S. Paulo, said that Minister Salles is creating a problem not only to the forest but to the agribusiness, “who will face more pressure and people saying that they want to destroy the forest”. The public prosecutor Alexandre Gaio, from southern Parana state, said that the order causes judicial insecurity and threatens the region’s water security, since the ones responsible for the deforestation will no longer be obliged to recover the vegetation on river sides.

Covid-19: Gold diggers  advance into indigenous lands during pandemic

View from the Brazilian riverbank of the Oiapoque River, used as a route by gold diggers

Crédito: OBORÉ/Repórter do Futuro/Bruno Huberman/via CC

1 Apr 20

Covid-19: Gold diggers advance into indigenous lands during pandemic

The coordination of the Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (Coica) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) received reports about an increased flow of illegal Brazilian miners at the Oiapoque river region, Amapa State, who were heading towards the French Guiana. Deutsche Welle Brasil (DW) talked with researchers from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and the Federal University of Ceará who stated that the Oiapoque is the primary route for smuggling of gold and other minerals illegally obtained. Claudette Labonté, president of the French Guiana Parikweneh Federation and a member of Coica said the police “let their guard down” during the pandemic. In February, the Brazilian government presented a bill that aims to legalize mining in indigenous territories.

Greenpeace criticizes Amazon Council and Bolsonaro trashes the NGO

Bolsonaro called Greenpeace “trash”

Júlio Nascimento/PR/via Fotos Públicas

13 Feb 20

Greenpeace criticizes Amazon Council and Bolsonaro trashes the NGO

After Jair Bolsonaro “recreated” the Amazon Council — once called Legal Amazon Council, created in 1995 —, altering its coordination from the Ministry of the Environment to the vice-presidency, the NGO Greenpeace criticized the measure, stating that the “council doesn’t have a plan, goals or budget”. They also condemned the lack of participation by the state governors. When questioned by journalists about Greenpeace allegations, Bolsonaro once again snapped and called the NGO “trash” and “filth”.

Government excludes civil society from National Environment Fund

“Golpe duro contra o meio ambiente”, afirmou diretora da SBPC

Crédito: Gilberto Soares/MMA/Divulgação/Via G1

6 Feb 20

Government excludes civil society from National Environment Fund

A presidential decree excluded civil society organizations from the deliberative council of the National Environment Fund (FNMA). The Fund is linked to the Ministry of the Environment and finances sustainable development projects across the country. 

 

Representatives of the Brazilian Association of Environmental Organization (Abema), National Association of Municipalities and Environment, Brazilian Forum of NGOs and Social Movements for the Environment and Development (FBOMS) and the Brazilian Society for the Progress of Science (SBPC) will no longer be heard at the council.

A director for SBPC said that the measure is “a hard blow against the environment”.

NGOs, social movements and politicians file criminal denounce against the Minister of the Environment

Grupo pede apuração de possíveis de crimes cometidos pelo ministro do Meio Ambiente

Crédito: Reprodução

22 Jan 20

NGOs, social movements and politicians file criminal denounce against the Minister of the Environment

Ceará’s Bar Association, Greenpeace and other entities and NGOs, in alliance with politicians and social movements representatives, presented a formal denunciation to the Brazilian Attorney-General’s Office against the Minister of the Environment.

They took action based on a story from newspaper Folha de S. Paulo which detailed  the participation of environmental infractors in a reunion with minister Salles in December 2019. That meeting resulted in the suspension of federal inspection and control in the Extractivist Reserve Chico Mendes in the Amazon region.

Bolsonaro publishes measure that fosters illegal land grabbing

Specialist accuse measure of favoring environmental offenders

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

13 Dec 19

Bolsonaro publishes measure that fosters illegal land grabbing

President Jair Bolsonaro issued provisional measure 910/19 that allows concession and regularization of titles to public land grabbers and invaders. Among the proposals, the access to titles without previous inspections in lands up to 1400 hectares in some Amazon municipalities, as well as authorizing invaders to become owners of lands grabbed until December 2018. For the measure to become law in effect, it needs to be voted by the House of Representatives in a 120 day timeframe. In an interview with Deutsche Welle – Brazil, Raul Valle, a director for social environmental justice for WWF-Brasil, said that the measure “rewards those who invaded and expelled small farmers and traditional communities from public lands”.

COP-25: Brazil wins “Fossil of the day” Award; Minister says country is “no villain”

Award singles out countries that don’t protect the environment

Crédito: Climate Action Network International (CAN)/Twitter

12 Dec 19
Alter do Chão Amazon Forest fires: Bolsonaro vs. WWF and Dicaprio

Bolsonaro accuses environment defender without proof

Crédito: Antonio Cruz/Agência Brasil

30 Nov 19
Police arrests activists on iffy charges after forest fires at Alter do Chão

Detained volunteers act against the spread of forest fires in the region

Crédito: Brigada de Alter do Chão (PA)/Handout/via Agência Brasil

27 Nov 19

Police arrests activists on iffy charges after forest fires at Alter do Chão

Brazilian civil  society was taken by surprise when the Civil Police of Para State preventively arrested four volunteer firefighters in Alter do Chão, municipality of Santarém. The arrests were made as part of an operation that investigates the origin of forest fires that affected Alter do Chão back in September, which burnt an area the size of 1,600 football fields. According to the state civil police, investigations point that NGOs, among them the Alter do Chão Fire Brigade, acted to start the fires.  

 

The police also raided the office for Saude e Alegria Project (PSA), using a generic search warrant to apprehend computers and paperwork. Just last week, the NGO won a prize as one of the Best 99 NGOs in Brazil. Caetano Scannavino, coordinator for PSA, said: “It’s a nightmare. What we can clearly see is a political action to try to demoralise NGOs working in the Amazon. It’s very worrisome.” Caetano says he personally knows the 4 arrested people, and one of them works for PSA. “They all seem to be extremely committed people”.  

 

Later that day, a police sheriff with the Civil Police in Para said that they have plenty of investigative material on the alleged irregular work of NGOs in the state. He said that 3 local Santarém NGOs – Projeto Saúde e Alegria, Brigada Alter do Chão e Aquíferos Alter do Chão – received money from WWF Brazil to fight the fires, but that some of this money had been diverted. The information about money diversion was not part of the original denouncement that came to the public. 

 

All 3 NGOs published notes and denied irregularities, saying that were taken by surprise with the accusations and making themselves available for the inquiries. On the 27th, during a custody hearing with the judge, the 4 detained volunteers asked for the suspension of the preventive arrests, but the request was denied. Their lawyer is now taking the case to the State Justice Court where a request for habeas corpus will be filed.

When asked to comment on this case, the Minister of the Environment only said it is a Para State led investigation and that it’s necessary to wait for the findings of the inquiry.

Public prosecution office says Alter do Chão fires started with land-grabbers

Prosecution rules out brigadiers participation in the fires

Crédito: Eugênio Scannavino/Personal Archive

27 Nov 19

Public prosecution office says Alter do Chão fires started with land-grabbers

The Public Prosecutor’s Office (MPF) asked for full access to the inquiry that led to the arrest of four brigadiers accused of forest fires in Alter do Chão, in the State of Pará. Opposed to what the Pará Civil Police established, the MPF pointed to the action of land-grabbers and declared “that there were no elements that pointed to the participation of brigadiers or civil society organizations”. The prosecutors algo pointed that as one of the most famous river beach destinations in the country, the area is coveted by the tourism and real estate industries, and is under threat of public land invaders.

Greenpeace is targeted with fake news by Minister of the Environment

24/10/19

Crédito: Twitter

24 Oct 19

Greenpeace is targeted with fake news by Minister of the Environment

The Minister of Environment took to Twitter to diffuse fake news amid the oil spill crisis. He posted a picture of the Greenpeace ship MV Esperanza along with a text that read: “There are coincidences in life…It seems that the #greenpixe ship was fitly sailing international waters in front of the Brazilian coast right around the time of the venezuelan oil spill…”. 

The infamous tweet generated a lot of backlash towards the Minister. Deputy Rodrigo Maia, President of the Chamber of Deputies, also used Twitter to challenge Minister Salles on presenting an official position about the accusation. Salles then responded Maia by attacking Greenpeace from a different angle: “the Greenpeace ship confirmed that it sailed close to the Brazilian coast by the time the Venezuelan oil showed up, and, just like their members on land, did not engage to help”. 

Later on the same day, Greenpeace  published a note clarifying that the ship was en route from the Caribbean to Uruguay and announced that the filing of a diffamation criminal complaint against Minister Salles at a Federal court.

Catholic Church Synode takes place at the Amazon region

Church discussed indigenous rights, environment and the Amazon

Jeffrey Bruno/Wikimedia Commons/via CC BY-SA 2.0

12 Oct 19

Catholic Church Synode takes place at the Amazon region

Pope Francis celebrated the opening mass for the Amazon Synode, in the Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.  The Synode gathered bishops and other guests from 9 countries of the Biome to debate issues concerning the Catholic Church work in the region, the environment and local residents, including indigenous peoples.

During a 10-minute homily, the Pope criticised the recent forest fires that ravaged the Amazon, asked that the church does not limit itself to a “maintenance pastoral” and that the synode has the inspiration to “renew the pathways to the church in the region”. A group of Brazilian indigenous linked to CIMI (Missionary Indigenist Council) attended the celebration, together with more than 200 cardinals and bishops. At the end, the group held a banner inside de Basilica with the message “against the theft, destruction and invasion of indigenous territories”. 

Less than a week later, at a Conservative Congress organized by Federal Deputy Eduardo Bolsonaro, far-right groups attacked the Synode and Pope Francis. They complained about Dom Claudio Hummes, who is close to the Pope and also engaged in human rights struggles in Brazil, saying that he is a “personal friend of former president Lula”. They also attacked the Liberation Theology and a “red sect” inside the church, labelling it “tyranny”, and placing the Synode as a grave menace to Brazil’s soverignty over the  Amazon.

Bolsonaro attacks NGOs while addressing oil spillage

12/10/19

Crédito: Twitter

12 Oct 19

Bolsonaro attacks NGOs while addressing oil spillage

Under increasing pressure to solve the origin of the oil spill and work harder on contention measures in the Northeast, president Bolsonaro chose irony to attack NGOs on a tweet about the matter: “Since September 02 our government is trying to identify who is responsible for the oil spill in the beaches of  the Northeast. We are worried about the unusual silence of the UN and the NGOs, always so attentive to the environment”.

Bolsonaro’s son attacks Greta Thunberg with fake news

25/09/2019

Crédito: Twitter

26 Sep 19
Amazon fires turn day into night in São Paulo

São Paulo sky, at around 3PM, on August 19

@CaioBerkley/Twitter

23 Aug 19

Amazon fires turn day into night in São Paulo

It was a cold Monday afternoon in São Paulo, the largest Brazilian city, located thousands of kilometers away from the Amazon.  Around 3 pm, the sky became dark and the day turned into night: it was no storm, but clouds of smoke and polluted water vapor that covered the entire metropolitan region. Meteorologists said that the phenomena was a combination between a cold wave and smoke from forest fires in Rondonia and Bolivia. The event made headlines around the world and created a momentum for national and international media coverage on the forest fires that had been ravaging several areas of the Amazon for weeks.

According to data from INPE, 52,5% of all Brazil’s  forest fires hotspots were concentrated in the Amazon region in 2019; the number of fires between January and August 18th increased 82% when compared to the previous year. Environmentalists and researchers associated the increased fires to the peaks in deforestation registered by INPE in June and July – which were stubbornly denied by the government and triggered the exoneration of INPE’s director in the beginning of August. INPE’s analysis were further corroborated by NASA, that said that it was possible to correlate the main fire hotspots with signature deforestation in the region, and not to other human activities such as clearing for preparing the land for cattle or crops. 

When asked about the crisis, president Bolsonaro chose to (again) blame NGOs. Referring to the cuts on Fundo Amazônia, he said: “Crime exists and we need to do what we can to  reduce this crime, but we took money away from NGOs. From  the international donations, we took 40% that would go to NGOs (…) We also cut  the public funding. So these people  are missing the money. ” He continued: “So there might be happening, it might, I am not affirming, criminal activity by these NGO guys to get negative attention against me personally, and against the government of Brazil. This is the war we have to fight”. The president said that his ‘feeling’ is that the criminal forest fires intend to generate dramatic images to the international audience.. “It seems  the fire  was  set in strategic places, all over the  Amazon. How is that possible? Not even you would be able to be everywhere setting the forest on fire to film and broadcast to  the world. All indicates that these people went there to film and set the fire. This is my feeling”. On social media, minister Ricardo Salles said the increase in forest  fires was a result of dry weather,  heat  and wind.

On the 21st, Ibama published an announcement to buy a new monitoring system for Amazon. The Planet system, from the USA, is expected to be chosen. Since the beginning of the year, Salles and Bolsonaro clashed with Inpe’s system, claimed the data was “fake” and exonerated the institute’s president, Ricardo Galvão. Salles has always advocated for a private monitoring system

Protests against forest fires are organized throughout Brazil

Protest in defense of the Amazon in Manaus, Amazona State

Crédito: Alberto César Araújo/Amazônia Real/via Fotos Públicas

23 Aug 19
INPE director is exonerated

Ricardo Galvão was constantly attacked by government members

Crédito: Ricardo Galvão/Arquivo Pessoal/via G1

1 Aug 19

INPE director is exonerated

In a press conference on August 1st, President Bolsonaro and Minister Salles announced a new system to monitor Amazon deforestation, affirming that INPE’s data released in June and July was incorrect. Minister Salles said that there should be more responsibility on releasing this kind of number, and that the government would open a bidding process to soon hire a daily monitoring system with  higher resolution. President Bolsonaro again attacked INPE and said that the numbers published in the previous months had been “beaten up” to damage Brazil’s reputation. He regretted the fact that INPE’s director had a mandate and said that someone that passes on doubtful information should indeed be made responsible. “If there is a break in trust, he will be summarily dismissed. A break of trust, in my view,  it is for capital punishment”.  

On the same day, INPE responded with a public note saying that the institute works according to the “principles of excellence, transparency and scientific honesty” and reaffirming its trust  on the quality of data generated  by DETER, the deforestation monitoring system used by INPE. “The alerts are produced using a widely published methodology which has been consistently applied since  2004. It  is widely known that it has contributed to reduce deforestation in the Amazon region when used in conjunction with inspection actions.”

The day after the press conference and Bolsonaro’s threats, the Minister of Science and Technology, who controls INPE, decided to exonerate  Ricardo Galvão, INPE’s director. Galvão had been serving as director since 2016 and  was supposed to remain in the post until 2020.

Emyra Waiãpi is murdered by gold-diggers

Bolsonaro said that there is no evidence that the native Brazilian was murdered

Crédito: Handout/via G1

29 Jul 19

Emyra Waiãpi is murdered by gold-diggers

A Waiãpi Indigenous leader was killed on July 22th amid an invasion of his community lands by gold diggers, in the west of Amapa Amazon State. Emyra Waiãpi, 68 years old, was violently stabbed and assaulted at the Mariry village; his body had marks of beatings and was missing an eye. Around 1,300 waiãpis live in the demarcated land; they are the only indigenous group in the country with an official permit to do low scale gold mining in their territory. Two days after the killing, around 50 gold diggers attacked the Mariry village, in the first invasion of its kind in decades. An internal FUNAI document accessed by the press mentioned at least 15 heavily armed gunmen and stated “we can conclude the presence of invaders is real and the tension in the  region is high”. After a few days, Apina, the Waiãpi Villages Council,  published a note with more  details on the killing and the invasion of their territory. 

Reacting to the news of the Waiãpi assassination, president Bolsonaro questioned the veracity of the story and reaffirmed his support to opening indigenous reserves  and other protected areas to mining and gold digging. “They use the indigenous people as a manipulated mass, to demarcate more and more lands, to say they are mistreated. Now this case…there is no strong evidence that this indigenous was killed there. There are many possibilities, the Federal Police is there, we sent over who we could send over; I will try to solve the case and show the truth about all of this,” he said. He went on to say that international NGOs are against gold mining in these properties  because they want the indigenous to “remain locked in a zoo” and  because they challenge Brazil’s sovereignty over the Amazon.

“It’s a very rich land (the Yanomami reservation); if you  put it together with Raposa Serra do Sol (reservation),  there is an absurd amount of minerals there. I am looking for ‘first  world’  (partners) to  explore those areas adding value. That’s the reason to get close to the USA. That’s why I want someone that I trust at the Brazilian Embassy in the USA, ” he said.  At the time, Bolsonaro wanted to name his son, federal deputy Eduardo Bolsonaro, as ambassador in Washington to have “quick and immediate contact with the american president”.

Bolsonaro attacks INPE

President says INPE’s data are fake and damage Brazil’s image abroad

Crédito: Carolina Antunes/PR/via CC BY 2.0

21 Jul 19

Bolsonaro attacks INPE

After INPE published new data showing that Amazon deforestation rose 68% in the first  half of July 2019 when compared to the same period in 2018, President Bolsonaro started a series of personal attacks against INPE’s director, Ricardo Galvão. The president said that INPE’s numbers do not reflect the truth and damage Brazil’s  international reputation. “Of course I will speak to the director of INPE. It’s repeated headlines that only help to make Brazil’s name be seen as an underdog abroad,” he declared to journalists. President Bolsonaro also suggested that Director Galvão “could be at service for some NGO”. 

Two days later, national and international scientific associations poured in support to INPE’s work to monitor Amazon deforestation, saying the Institute’s methodology is robust and a renowned reference on satellite monitoring around the world. 

INPE’s director Ricardo Galvão responded to the criticism from the president in interviews to the press. He reported that INPE started  to suffer attacks back in January, but they were mostly coming from the Ministry of the Environment. “INPE only collects  data, that’s all we do, but there was some dissatisfaction about that, coming from the Ministry of Environment.” He said he didn’t expect this debate to reach  the President of the Republic, “but apparently it did and I am not sure who made this  happen (…) I might face consequences, get fired. But for the Institute there shouldn’t be. Firstly because the budget for the year is secured, and we are working on next year’s budget. And the situation is so clear, we received so much support, including from abroad, that it became impossible, in my opinion, for the government to somehow retaliate (…)”.

Roulette at federal environmental council

Sortition happened at Ibama headquarters

Crédito: Handout/via O Globo

17 Jul 19

Roulette at federal environmental council

In late May, the government dismantled the National Environmental Council (CONAMA), reducing seats for NGOs and civil society representatives and excluding ICMBio from the composition of the council. Then on July 17th, the Ministry of Environment promoted a sortition (labelled as a ‘roulette’ by civil society) to choose NGO and other representatives to sit at the Council. Before May’s decree, representatives were chosen by participative elections and the council had a total of 96 seats; now there are only 23, a 77% reduction. Civil Society went from occupying 22 seats to only 4.

Bolsonaro attacks Raoni

06/07/2019

Crédito: Twitter

6 Jul 19

Bolsonaro attacks Raoni

In a video posted on twitter,  president Bolsonaro says that “Brazil is an example to the  world  on environmental preservation. NGOs, artistas, ‘Raonis’ will no longer influence our external policies.”

Fundo Amazônia at risk of termination

Ricardo Salles in a meeting with Norway and Germany ambassadors

Crédito: Ministry of the Environment/Handout/via Agência Brasil

5 Jul 19

Fundo Amazônia at risk of termination

In a meeting with ambassadors from Germany and Norway, the  Minister of the Environment admitted for the first time that Fundo Amazônia (Amazon Fund) may end. The announcement came after a series of problems created by the Brazilian government since May:  starting two new audits looking for financial irregularities on 25% of the contracts, questioning the coordination of BNDES (National Development Bank), trying to change the criteria for grant making and, finally, in early June, dismantling two key committees for the operation of the Fund (as a consequence of a presidential decree that extinguished several social councils involving NGOs). By the end of June, a new presidential decree reinstated some of the councils but Fundo Amazônia’s committees were left out. Germany and Norway defended the re-creation of the committees, the role of BNDES and the current criteria for funding projects, and said the dialogue with the Brazilian government would continue.

Merkel wants to talk to Bolsonaro about preservation

Chancellor said that the human rights situation in Brazil is “dramatic”

Crédito: Russian Presidential Executive Office/Wikimedia Commons/via CC BY 4.0

26 Jun 19

Merkel wants to talk to Bolsonaro about preservation

On the eve of the G20, German chancellor Angela Merkel spoke to the German Parliament and said that she hoped to have an opportunity to talk directly to president Bolsonaro about deforestation in Brazil at the summit in Osaka. Calling the human rights situation in Brazil “dramatic”, Merkel’s address was seen as a response to the NGO letter sent in the previous week questioning the Mercosul – European Union trade agreement and demanding stronger measures to curb deforestation and to implement the Paris Agreement. 

340 international organizations sign open letter against Mercosul-EU treaty

Organizations expressed rejection to Bolsonaro’s policies

Marcos Corrêa/PR/via CC BY 2.0

19 Jun 19

340 international organizations sign open letter against Mercosul-EU treaty

More than 340 international organizations signed an open letter asking the European Union to immediately halt trade negotiations with Brazil. The request came amid talks to a free-trade agreement between the Mercosul and the European Union – which has been in the making for over two decades. Addressed to the presidents of the European Commission, Council and  Parliament, the document states  that “since the beginning of Bolsonaro’s government…we have been witnessing the increase of human rights violations, attacks against  minorities, indigenous populations, traditional communities and  LGBTQ people”. Other demands listed on the letter were guarantees that Brazilian products imported into Europe were not involved with deforestation, land grabbing and human rights violations; stronger commitment from Brazil towards implementing the Paris Agreement; supporting Brazilian NGOs that defend democracy  and human rights,  monitoring human rights violations and providing investigation and support to people under threat. 

Cerrado burns

Matopiba region, that encompasses Maranhã, Tocatins, Piauí and Bahia States, is considered a “showcase” for Brazil’s Agribusiness

Crédito: Ibama/Divulgação/via O Eco

11 Jun 19

Cerrado burns

The Cerrado has lost  almost half of its native vegetation  and  continues to be threatened by monoculture and cattle ranching  expansion with the support of the government. According to INPE, the biome lost 7.697 km2 of vegetation in the last year. The destruction of the Cerrado happens at a more intense pace  than Amazon’s deforestation. In  the past 5 years, Cerrado lost 56.300 km2 of native coverage, while the Amazon (twice the size) lost 35.800km2. The main deforestation hotspot in the Cerrado is the Matopiba region, seen as the last agricultural haven in Brazil. According to a Greenpeace report,  486.000 km2 of native Cerrado had  been turned into pasture for cattle until 2017.

Bolsonaro: “I'm standing out of the way for rural producers"

Bolsonaro during the launch of “Together for Araguaia” project

Crédito: Alan Santos/PR/via Agência Brasil

5 Jun 19

Bolsonaro: “I’m standing out of the way for rural producers”

On World Environment Day, president Bolsonaro chose to attend the inauguration ceremony of a consortium with state governments of Goias and Mato Grosso to fund and implement the revitalization of the Araguaia River Basin, in the central region of the country. In a speech during the ceremony, the president said that the river project was proof that Brazil cares about protecting the environment and that his first mission is “to not stand in the way of those who want to produce”. The Minister of  Environment, who also attended the ceremony, used the opportunity to praise the agribusiness sector, saying that they are a global example of how to produce in large scale with quality and respect to nature. He also again accused international organizations and other countries of wanting to  “dictate how Brazil should care for the environment”.

Civil society loses seats at environmental council

Civil society lost 18 seats on CONAMA

Crédito: Lula Marques/Fotos Públicas

29 May 19

Civil society loses seats at environmental council

A decree issued by the Minister of the Environment reduced and changed the sharing of  seats at the National Council for the Environment (CONAMA), the main consultation body for the Ministry. CONAMA works specially on environmental licensing standards and pre-conditions. From 96 members, the Council was reduced to a total of 23, including the Minister, who is acting president of the Council. Civil Society lost 18 seats – from 22 to only 4; while governmental participation increased, the private sector also lost space. The way Council members are appointed was also changed by the decree. Before it was via a participative election; with the decree,  it is done via a draw  between  candidates from each sector. Public prosecutors were excluded from the council.

Bolsonaro promotes “blackout” in environmental fines and inspections

Environmentalists blame the drop on the dismantling of control agencies

Crédito: Marcos Corrêa/PR/Wikimedia Commons/via CC BY 2.0

23 May 19

Bolsonaro promotes “blackout” in environmental fines and inspections

During the first months of Jair Bolsonaro’s government, the number of fines imposed by the Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Resources (Ibama) was the lowest in eleven years. Fines for deforestation in the Amazon, for example, fell 34%. The Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio) did not carry out any environmental inspection and control operation in April.

According to the Climate Observatory, the decline is partly explained by the lack of command in the institutions. At the beginning of the year, the Minister of the Environment dismissed 21 Ibama regional superintendents that have yet to be replaced. ICMBio’s President Adalberto Eberhardt was fired after public servants  of the Lagoa do Peixe National Park were threatened by Salles.

On Wednesday (22), the deputy attorney general of the Federal Court of Auditors requested the opening of an investigation on “the inefficiency of control” by public environmental agencies. The request, based on a document signed by environmental NGOs, points to a series of government initiatives that “want to destroy environmental policy”.

Decree allows rural landowners to bear weapons

Easy access to guns in rural properties brings threat of more violence in Brazil

Crédito: Beto Oliveira /Câmara dos Deputados/Wikimedia Commons/via CC BY 3.0

20 May 19

Decree allows rural landowners to bear weapons

A new decree expanding the right to possess and bear guns – a key Bolsonaro’s campaign promise – was introduced in early  May and was questioned both at National Congress and the Supreme Court. In practise, the decree facilitates access to own and carry a gun to another 20 new “professional categories”, including “rural land residents”. The text of the decree says that the gun can be used in the whole area of  the property and that the  owner is allowed to use it in “self defense”. In a country that already holds world records on violence against environmentalists, the decree raised deep concerns of increased use of lethal violence by big landowners/ farmers/ armed militias against human rights defenders, indigenous and quilombola communities and land reform settlers. 

Minister questions Amazon Fund and attacks NGOs

International donors disapproved changes in the Fund governance

Crédito: Anderson Riedel/PR/via CC BY 2.0

17 May 19

Minister questions Amazon Fund and attacks NGOs

During a press conference in São Paulo, the Minister of the Environment openly questioned the efficacy of Fundo Amazônia, the collective fund that concentrates donations from Norway, Germany and Petrobras. The fund is managed by BNDES and has invested over R$ 1.8 billion for projects aiming to reduce deforestation. Minister Salles rejected reports from Fundo Amazônia indicating that it helped to reduce Amazon deforestation by 11% between 2009 and 2017, saying that such relationship of cause and effect has yet to be proven. Fundo Amazônia reports uses deforestation data from INPE’s monitoring of the region. Minister Salles went on to say that a quarter of the contracts of Fundo Amazônia need to be “rigorously analysed” by controlling bodies (BNDES, CGU and TCU) due to “evidence of dysfunctionalities”. Most of Fundo Amazônia projects involve NGOs and other civil society entities. By raising these suspicions, the minister dismissed the findings of a parliamentary inquiry carried in 2018 that found the overall management of the fund to be “satisfactory” and the positive results of 2 yearly independent audits carried on the fund’s activities. Salles also created a stir by suggesting to use  money  from the fund to compensate private landowners located inside conservation units and protected areas.

A few hours after the interview, the Embassy of Norway, the Fundo Amazônia’s biggest donor, published a note declaring to be “satisfied with the  robust governance structure of Fundo Amazônia” and the significant results achieved by entities supported by the fund in the last 10 years. “We have not received any proposal from Brazilian authorities to alter the governance structure or the criteria used by the Fund to allocate resources”.

Agrochemicals approvals up by 42%

Close to half of the new agrochemicals are considered to be“highly or extremely” toxic

Crédito: alffoto/iStock

17 May 19

Agrochemicals approvals up by 42%

A Greenpeace report shows that the release of agrochemicals increased by 42% in the first few  months of Bolsonaro’s government. Between January 1st and April 30th, the federal government approved the use of 166 new agrochemicals  in the country. Of the newly released products, 44%  are “highly or extremely toxic” and only 6% are biological; 28% are not allowed in the European Union due to toxicity risks.

Indigenous movements unite against government policies

Movements fight against Bolsonaro’s measures that harm indigenous land demarcation

Crédito: Mobilização Nacional Indígena/Handout

24 Apr 19

Indigenous movements unite against government policies

More than 4,000 leaders from indigenous peoples and organizations, representing 305 communities, gathered in Brasilia, Brazil’s capital, between April 24th and 26th, during the XV Terra Livre Camp (ATL). The camp became a resistance landmark and a voice of indignation against president Bolsonaro and other State agents against indigenous rights. On the last day of the occupation, the indigenous people marched through Brasilia and formalized letters to the Ministry of Health, in order to maintain SESAI to care for basic indigenous health, and to the Ministers of Justice and of Agriculture, repudiating Provisional Measure 870. MP 870, introduced by Bolsonaro’s government, aims to remove the power to identify and demarcate indigenous lands and to analyse environmental license on projects that affect indigenous reserves from the Minister of Justice and put it under the Ministry of Agriculture, in a clear constitutional violation.

Senator Flávio Bolsonaro proposes bill to weaken Federal Forest Code

The president’s son participates on the attacks to the environmental agenda

Crédito: Fabio Rodrigues Pozzebom/Agência Brasil/via Fotos Públicas

18 Apr 19

Senator Flávio Bolsonaro proposes bill to weaken Federal Forest Code

Senator Flávio Bolsonaro (PSL-RJ) presented a bill in Congress that eliminates the chapter on mandatory legal reserve for private rural properties from the Federal Forestry Code. Aiming to end what he calls “obstacles” and “expand agribusiness, create jobs and contribute to  the growth of the  country”, the text in practise suppresses the obligation of private rural landowners to maintain part of the native vegetation in their properties. 

Senator Flávio Bolsonaro also  blames “ecological bureaucrats” for distributing false information on agribusiness and states that “NGOs and international bodies should award and praise producers for their role in  protecting the forests”.

Bolsonaro threatens Funai

President Bolsonaro once again hinted at the existence of “industry of fines”

Crédito: Funai/Handout

17 Apr 19

Bolsonaro threatens Funai

On a video streaming live from the presidential palace, president Bolsonaro once again attacked indigenous rights, NGOs and Ibama, and threatened to cut off the entire group of directors of Funai, the National Indigenous Foundation. Five indigenous individuals participated in the video – they were introduced to the president by a secretary of the minister of Agriculture, who is linked to big rural landowners; some of them made statements about wanting to “produce in their lands”. 

Bolsonaro again declared his support to allow mining and gold digging inside Indigenous reserves, claiming that the richness under the soil attracts NGOs with vested international interests. According to the president, NGOs are engaged with Ibama agents on a “fines and infractions industry” because they want to receive part of the money. “NGOs act on their own behalf, they are not working for the indigenous people”,  he said. “Indigenous people will remain in poverty? Enslaved by NGOs, enslaved by  political parties, by deputies, by senators who are committed to you, who use you to take advantage. We want your freedom”,  he said to his indigenous guests. It is worth noting that this live streaming happened a week before thousands of indigenous communities gathered in Brasilia for Acampamento Terra Livre, one of the largest indigenous mobilizations in the world.

Changes in Environmental Crimes Law benefit deforestation

Another measure pushes NGOs away from government decisions

Crédito: Phototreat/iStock

11 Apr 19

Changes in Environmental Crimes Law benefit deforestation

In another move to dismantle Ibama political role on licensing, inspecting and fining environmental crimes and violations, president Bolsonaro issued a decree to alter the 2008’s Environmental Crimes Law, establishing ‘conciliation courts’ to review fines and penalties and changing the basis of the program that allowed fines to be compensated via forest restoration measures. The decree also specified formal bidding among service providers instead of the hiring of NGOs to work on compensation and restoration measures for environmental crimes. The Minister of the Environment praised the president on Twitter for yet another ideological decree targeting the environmental governance in the country.

Indigenous Health under attack

Secretary of Indigenous Health may be shut down

Crédito: Laszlo Mates/iStock

18 Feb 19

Indigenous Health under attack

The Ministry of Health considers changing the public healthcare system that attends indigenous populations, transferring the responsibilities from the federal government to state and city governments. Since 2010, 305 Indigenous ethnic groups (more than 700,000 individuals) are under the care of SESAI (Special Secretary on Indigenous Health), which belongs to the Ministry of Health. The government plans included the closure of the special secretary and an investigation on the contracts between SESAI and NGOs that are hired to do some of the basic care attendance. Indigenous movements strongly criticized the proposal.

Minister of the Environment says that he doesn’t know who Chico Mendes is

Chico Mendes was one of the greatest Amazon defenders

Crédito: TV Cultura/Handout

15 Feb 19

Minister of the Environment says that he doesn’t know who Chico Mendes is

During a live interview on a TV show, the Environment Minister declared that he had never been to the Amazon region or knew who Chico Mendes was. He also said that agribusiness representatives told him that Chico Mendes, one of the most known Amazon defenders, “exploited rubber tappers communities”. Stirring public outrage, he went further: “The fact is that he is irrelevant. What difference does it make who is Chico Mendes now?”.

Minister requests Controller General to investigate Fundo Amazônia

Salles fires at NGOs: “Extremists”

Crédito: José Cruz/Agência Brasil

13 Feb 19

Minister requests Controller General to investigate Fundo Amazônia

The Minister of the Environment files a formal request at the Controller General (legal body that oversees governmental contracts) to have access to all contracts between NGOs and Fundo Amazônia; in January, minister Salles had already suspended contracts and new money transfers related to the Fund for a 90-day period. The move further reinforced the government’s biased approach towards the Fund and NGOs, which they label as “extremists” and claim that they are part of an “environmental infractions industry”.

Bolsonaro at Davos

Bolsonaro: “[Brazil] is the country who protects the environment the most”

Crédito: Alan Santos/PR/via CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

22 Jan 19

Bolsonaro at Davos

During a brief speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, President Jair Bolsonaro prompted fresh alarm among environmentalists after stressing that protecting his country’s unique ecosystem has to be consistent with economic growth. “Agriculture makes up no more than 9% of our territory and has grown thanks to technology and the hard work of farmers,” he said. “No other country in the world has as many forests as we do.”

 Without addressing the risks that a go-for-growth strategy would pose to the Amazon region, Bolsonaro used his first overseas trip since taking office to outline a strong pro-business agenda. He also claimed that Brazil is the country that protects the environment the most.

Minister qualifies Paris Agreement as an “imposition”

Salles repels demands by environmentalists

Crédito: Anderson Riedel/PR/via CC BY 2.0

15 Jan 19

Minister qualifies Paris Agreement as an “imposition”

In a long and exclusive interview to one of the major Brazilian daily newspapers, Ricardo Salles, recently appointed Minister of the Environment, detailed the government’s position towards international conventions and climate change agreements. “We can not allow the principles of such conventions to be used within the Brazilian justice framework, creating regulations that are too strict or disconnected from reality, that interfere with Brazil economic growth under the pretext of the Paris Agreement”. When reminded by the interviewer that the goals of the agreement are individually set by each signatory country and therefore could not be taken as “impositions”, he replied:  “The imposition also comes from a matter of public opinion. When we suffer all this pressure from several institutions, organisms and NGOs, this is an imposition. I believe (also speaking on behalf of the president) that we will take positions according to our own interests, what we think it’s good for Brazil, we will do. What is not in line with what we want, for any given reason, we will not do. Oh, but what about what the international consensus wants? Well, they can only wish”.

Minister of the Environment freezes agreements with NGOs

The Protected Amazon Areas Program (Arpa) is menaced by the measure

Crédito: WWF/Handout

15 Jan 19

Minister of the Environment freezes agreements with NGOs

The Minister of the Environment, Ricardo Salles, announced the suspension of his ministry’s agreements with autarchies and non-governmental organizations for 90 days. He also defined that new contracts with government conservation agencies must pass through his office.

The measure threatens several ongoing projects related to climate, environmental preservation, forest restoration and indigenous people. An example is the Arpa project, considered the largest and most successful tropical rainforest protection program in the world.

NGOs have often been a target of Bolsonaro and Ricardo Salles. An association of civil society organizations published a note criticizing the measure. “The minister adopts, without legal basis and without motivation, an extreme and generic sanctioning measure, with the potential to cause discontinuity in federal environmental management. The environment, which in theory Salles should protect, and to vulnerable populations across the country, will feel the damage“, says the document.

Organized civil society reacts

ISA criticises Bolsonaro’s ministerial reform

Crédito: Marcos Corrêa/PR/Via Wikimedia Commons

9 Jan 19

Organized civil society reacts

A civil society critical analysis of the first proposals of the government for the environment concluded that its approach to the presented ministerial reform was the most radical since 1990, and that 40 years of struggle to advocate, approve and implement Brazilian social and environmental policies and safeguards were at stake. “The Ministry of the Environment not only lost political leverage but also is now under the direct influence of economic interests from other sectors of Bolsonaro’s administration. This indicates that the environmental agenda is not a priority to this government; they are trying to destroy the Environmental Ministry without being held accountable for it”. 

Bolsonaro says indigenous people are manipulated by NGOs

Attacks to NGOs and indigenous rights: a hallmark of Bolsonaro’s government

Credit: Twitter

2 Jan 19

Bolsonaro says indigenous people are manipulated by NGOs

On the very same day that his government presented a provisional measure to transfer the responsibility to demarcate indigenous lands from the Ministry of Justice to the Ministry of Agriculture, Bolsonaro tweeted: “More than 15% of the national territory is demarcated as indigenous and quilombola land. Less than 1 million people live in these isolated places in real Brazil, explored and manipulated by NGOs. Let’s together integrate these citizens and value all Brazilians”.

"We will put an end to all 'activisms'”

NGOs and social movements rejected Bolsonaro’s statements

Crédito: NINJA/via CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

12 Oct 18

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