Land Speculators Defeated in Brazil
Brazil Environmental Movement Wins Historic Victory for Forest
Below is a news announcement from the Environmental Defense Fund, which appears to be calling itself just Environmental Defense these days.
Leaders of Brazil's Congress last night shelved proposed legislation to increase the size and rate of Amazon forest destruction, handing the speculators' and large landowners' caucus of the Congress a major, and precedent-setting, defeat.
The representatives of the rural oligarchy had pushed a draft law through a joint House/Senate Committee that would have further loosened restrictions on Amazon deforestation, and could have caused a 25% increase in annual rates of clearing and burning. Massive e-mail and fax protests to Congress and the President, and broad national media coverage orchestrated by Brazilian environmental and grassroots groups killed the measure before it could come to the House floor. The humiliating defeat marks the first time that the Brazilian environmental movement has prevailed over the land speculators' powerful special interest group.
Environmental organizations such as the Instituto Socioambiental, parliamentary leader Senator Marina Silva (Worker's Party - Acre) and Amazon union and grassroots groups struck a chord that echoed in Brazilian public opinion in denouncing the destruction law as irresponsible and contrary to the national interest. Government officials at one point blocked the massive flux of protest emails to Senate offices -- but backed down when the move was derided as censorship in the press.
Press and TV coverage overwhelmingly opposed the measure, as did the Environment Ministry. The proposed changes to the Forestry Code rejected an alternative proposal negotiated in the National Environment Council (CONAMA) among many interest groups including the ranchers.
The latifundistas' (large land owners and speculators) caucus, with some 200 votes in the Congress, represents the rural oligarchy -- the 1% of the landowners who control some 50% of Brazil agricultural land (while 50% of the farmers have only 3%). The group has specialized in holding government-sponsored legislation hostage to parochial, pork- barrel concerns considered unseemly even by the standards of the Brazilian Congress. These maneuvers have yielded tens of billions in official debt forgiveness, overwhelmingly for the few, largest debtors, while health care, education, and environment budgets suffered deep cuts. In this case, the group threatened to derail a vote on the minimum wage, considered critical by the government, to keep the government out of the Committee vote.
"The ranchers' caucus is the human face of the inequality, injustice, class privilege, and impunity that have plagued Brazil for 500 years," said Environmental Defense senior scientist Stephan Schwartzman.
For more information, contact Steve Schwartzman at Environmental Defense, firstname.lastname@example.org 202-387-3500.
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