Recently, a lot of posts like this are appearing in my Facebook feed.
One from today:
I think it’s time to explore what’s going on…
Dilma is Dilma Rouseff, the current (36th) and first woman President of Brazil. As a member of the Worker’s Party (PT) and a former Chief of Staff to her predecessor, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (better known as Lula), she has, as president, continued to expand and launch social programs while helping business growth including aiding in the privatization of several companies.
What’s all this about veta?
Last month the Brazilian legislative branch passed changes to the Forest Code (Código Florestal).As President, Dilma can use her powers to veta- which means veto- the passing of the new code.
Ok…so what’s the new Forest Code?
According to John Vidal in his May 11th article for The Guardian, Petition calls on Brazilian president to veto ‘catastrophic’ forest code:
“The proposed new Brazilian forest code, pushed through parliament by the powerful farming lobby in the face of national opposition, would provide an amnesty for landowners who have illegally cleared forests in the past and will allow deforestation in previously protected areas like mountain tops and beside rivers. According to environment groups, it could allow loggers to chop down more of the Amazon than has been possible in the last 50 years.”
The power of social media is showing as #vetadilma floods twitter and Facebook with links to petitions already signed by more than a million and a half people globally with Vital adding,”This number is expected to rise dramatically in the next few days as Greenpeace, Avaaz and WWF International ask their 22 million supporters to sign up.”
See Greenpeace International’s The Brazilian President can stop this hatchet job . It’s complete with petition and video. Both are in English.
But, could increased involvement and attention from groups like Greenpeace, Avaaz and WWF actually be more harmful than helpful to the cause?
In the book Brazil on the Rise, Larry Rother delves into the troubled history of the Amazon and Brazilian attitudes towards it. He writes, ” ‘The Amazon is ours’ That slogan is drilled into the minds of Brazilians from the time they enter kindergarden, repeated throughout their lives with such frequency that is has become a sort of mantra.” This attitude is understandable to me as a citizen of the United States who was raised from kindergarden with the ideas of American pride but just like the idea American Exceptionalism, Rother suggests that Brazilian pride can be a double edged sword with a sharp side of protectionism and downright paranoia. In reference to a 2007 military intelligence report he obtained he writes, “The report went on to argue that groups such as Greenpeace, Conservation International, the Rainforest Action Network , and the World Wildlife Fund are tools that ‘hegemonic powers” like the United States manipulate in order to maintain and augment their domination”
Wait. Did you see Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund in that list of tools of the hegemonic powers? I did and that’s the problem with their possible involvement. You might say that that is just one groups paranoid rantings but the ranchers, farm lobbyists and construction companies (some of the same groups whose powerful lobbying helped the Forrest Code pass in the first place) are known to use the same arguments to tip the balances in their favor.
International action and petitions can be used and seen as interference and fuel Nationlistic talking points.
Let’s return to John Vidal’s article in The Guardian where he quotes Katia Abreu and she says, “Brazil is the only country that has the moral authority to discuss [Brazilian] environmental issues.” Valid point but who exactly is Katia Abreu? Well, she’s a senator who also happens to be President of the Confederation of Agriculture and Livestock in Brazil.
The part of the Amazon that is Brazil’s is theirs.
Whether it’s paranoia, protectionism or political posturing isn’t for me to say. What I can tell you, for sure is that these attitudes do exist in Brazil and are driving policies. The truth is that the part of the Amazon that is in Brazil is Brazil’s. They are a sovereign nation and can choose to use or not use their land however their citizen’s see fit. Even if from outside it might appear to be a mistake.
Nobody likes to be told what to do.
Lula, Dilma’s predecessor, put it well when he said, “What we cannot accept is that those who failed to take care of their own forests, who did not preserve what they had and deforested everything and are responsible for most of the gasses poured into the air and for the greenhouse effect, they shouldn’t be sticking their noses into Brazil’s business and giving their two cents worth.”
There is a strong environmental movement within Brazil itself.
Take environmentalist, Maria Osmarina Marina Silva Vaz de Lima (better known as Marina Silva) for example. Silva, was born in the state of Acre and became the first rubber tapper ever elected to the Brazilian senate. A campaigner for sustainable development in the Amazon, her work was noticed by the Lula administration and she was appointed Environment Minister in 2003. After differences with the administration, at times including disputes with agribusiness, Silva left. She has gone on to join the Green Party and in 2010 made a failed bid for presidency. On her blog she recently posted 13 Reasons to Veto all of the Forest Code (in Portuguese)
It’s Not Over Yet.
With the upcoming Rio +20 summit there is a little riding appearance wise on a possible veto but other’s may argue that Brazil’s future economy is also at stake if the veto is given.
Dilma has until May 25 to “veta” but even if she does the congress can still vote to override that. We will see what happens the days to come.
It’s in Brazil’s hands…