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Brazil appoints Amazon protectors to lead policy reversal

The incoming president is set to prioritize environmental and indigenous issues

Incoming Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva appointed two rainforest preservation activists as ministers of environment and indigenous peoples on Thursday, part of the final round of 16 appointments ahead of his inauguration on Sunday. The leftist leader has vowed to make Brazil a leader in fighting climate change, in a total reversal from the pro-business policies of his predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro.

Marina Silva, who previously served as environmental minister during Lula’s first term from 2003 to 2008, will take up her old role. Lula has vowed to reverse the damage wrought under Bolsonaro, whose tenure saw Amazon deforestation reach a 15-year high as environmental protections were rolled back. The conservative leader also “destroyed” the ministry itself, Climate Observatory director Marcio Astrini told The Guardian, explaining that the agency “no longer exists. It will have to be rebuilt almost from scratch.”

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Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva celebrates after the electoral authority said he had defeated incumbent Jair Bolsonaro to become the country's next president, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022.
Lula’s victory is good for Brazil, but far from a revolution

Sonia Guajajara, the first indigenous woman to run for vice president of Brazil and a congresswoman since October, will become head of a newly-created ministry of indigenous peoples, representing Brazil’s 307 indigenous groups. She praised what she said was Lula’s genuine commitment to preserving the rainforest and defending the indigenous groups left “threatened, weakened and vulnerable” by the previous government.

Bolsonaro’s government appeared to deliberately target conservation-related ministries for bureaucratic starvation, cutting budgets, reducing staff, and redirecting funds in order to weaken oversight of the rainforest’s precious – and valuable – resources, according to his critics.

But regardless of the former president’s motivation, the loggers, miners, farmers, and other extraction industries he allowed into indigenous and protected lands now must be removed, according to Lula. The Workers Party leader earned international praise for the reduction in Amazon deforestation he oversaw during his first two terms.

However, Bolsonaro has refused to bow out gracefully, filing a complaint last month demanding the votes from half of the voting machines used in October’s election be thrown out, even though – according to the Superior Electoral Court – they were the same machines used in the first round of the election that delivered his party’s victory in both houses of Congress.


December 30, 2022 at 12:27PM

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