In a letter to Biden, influential Democratic senators accuse Bolsonaro of giving the green light to criminals in the Amazon

A week before the climate summit organized by the American government, a group of influential Democratic senators sent a letter to US President Joe Biden, stating that Jair Bolsonaro (without a party) publicly ridiculed Ibama (Brazilian Institute of the Environment) and sabotaged the agency’s ability to enforce the country’s environmental laws.

Parliamentarians also pointed out that the Brazilian leader has already called environmentalists “cancer” and tried to reduce the protection of indigenous reserves in the country.

“President Bolsonaro’s rhetoric and policies have effectively given the go-ahead for the dangerous criminals who operate in the Amazon, allowing them to expand their activities a lot”, says the text – which has among its signatories the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Commission , Robert Menendez.

In the letter, dated April 15, Menendez and Senators Patrick Leahy, Chris Van Hollen, Sheldon Whitehouse, Brian Schatz, Chris Murphy, Jeffrey Merkley and Bernie Sanders (who is independent but votes with Democrats) ask that the United States only pass on resources to Bolsonaro if Brazil shows progress in reducing deforestation and combating impunity for environmental crimes.

“Given the history of unfulfilled climate commitments, we think we must impose conditions to send American aid to Brazil: significant and sustained progress in reducing deforestation and ending impunity for environmental crimes and intimidation and violence against forest defenders,” he says. text sent to the American president, who will lead the virtual meeting on environmental issues that will take place next Thursday (22) and Friday (23).

Senators also urge Biden to take into account deforestation and impunity for environmental crimes to assess “whether the United States will support Brazil in areas of mutual interest, such as military and economic cooperation and Brazil’s candidacy for accession to the OECD [o clube dos países ricos]”.

“This letter from the senators should act as a warning to the Bolsonaro government. His disastrous policies in the Amazon are well known in Washington, and Bolsonaro will not be able to change his image simply using climate-friendly rhetoric, without concrete results, ”says Daniel Wilkinson, director of the environment and human rights at the NGO Human Rights Watch.

On Wednesday (14), Bolsonaro sent a seven-page letter to Biden, in which he promised to eliminate illegal deforestation in Brazil by 2030.

The Brazilian president also signaled that he can anticipate the goal of achieving climate neutrality by 2050, ten years ahead of schedule. Bolsonaro, however, stressed that the anticipation depends on the viability of “significant annual resources, which contribute in this sense”.

The Brazilian text was thought of as a way to turn the page and start the climate negotiation with the Biden management on the right foot – however, the commitments announced by Bolsonaro in the letter were considered “unambitious” by members of the American government.

Biden has been under pressure from environmental and human rights organizations not to close an agreement that will pass on resources to the Bolsonaro government.

At a recent meeting with team members from John Kerry, the White House’s special climate envoy, organizations emphasized that the Brazilian president is unreliable and that passing on resources before there is real progress would reward the setback in the country’s environmental policy and help in Bolsonaro’s public relations strategy.

Brazil’s Environment Minister, Ricardo Salles, has been trying to convince the United States to send money to Brazil in exchange for deforestation reduction targets. In an interview with the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo, he declared that he would be able to reduce the devastation of the Amazon rainforest by up to 40% in 12 months – but only if he received US $ 1 billion (R $ 5.6 billion) from foreign countries.

In the letter to Biden, Democratic senators state that the Bolsonaro government “has repeatedly expressed interest in working together with the United States on environmental issues, but, so far, it has shown no serious interest in working with multiple actors in Brazil who would have essential roles in any country. serious attempt to save the Amazon ”. To this end, they list actions by the Brazilian government in relation to environmentalists, NGOs, Ibama and indigenous reserves.

The text also points out that Bolsonaro’s nationally determined emission reduction contribution in December is less ambitious than the original target of 2016, and in practice would allow Brazil to increase its emissions over the next decade.


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