The lack of a plan to preserve the Amazon rainforest
A study conducted by a network of researchers from 6 countries has identified that 68% of environmental protection and indigenous lands in the Amazon are under threat. The menace comes from infrastructure projects, plans of economic development, and land exploitation activities. The most damage is inflicted by projects supported by local and federal governments, such as new roads—of the 136,000km built so far, 26,000 are within protected areas.
While the pace of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has slowed 72% since 2004, the trend has been reversed in the past year—rising 13.7%. Despite being home to 62% of the rainforest, Brazil is far from the only culprit. In the Peruvian Amazon, there have been 190 recorded oil spills in the past 20 years.
For Gustavo Faleiros, founder of InfoAmazônia—a project to raise awareness through in-depth reporting on the region and a partner organization of The Brazilian Report—South America needs a common plan for the Pan-Amazon, which spans across 8 countries, instead of each country being worried only about its short-term goals. “If six hydropower plants projected for the forest are indeed built, evidence points out that the flow nutrients on the rivers will be stopped—affecting agricultural production by the riverbanks and aquatic life.”
The Amazon in Bolsonaro’s Brazil
Environment Minister Ricardo Salles wants to scrutinize all 334 conservation units, and has said many of them were attributed “without any technical expertise.” Scrutinize, in Mr. Salles’ language, is likely to mean abolish. Meanwhile, the president’s son has presented a bill that would end the obligation for landowners to conserve part of their property (the rate depends on the region), saying that the rule goes against the sacred concept of private property.
Still not enough votes for the pension reform
Last night, President Bolsonaro gave an interview to SBT TV—a channel friendly to his administration. He admitted to not having the necessary 308 votes to pass the pension reform in the lower house, contradicting his words on May 7, when he claimed in another interview that the government had already whipped all the votes it needed.
On Tuesday, Economy Minister Paulo Guedes paid a visit to the House to discuss the bill. He urged members of Congress to include civil servants at the state and municipal level in the reform—or else they will quickly march towards a financial collapse. Some parties want to narrow the reform in order to force mayors and governors to publicly defend the unpopular reform and bear some of the political burden—as the political establishment begins to eye the 2020 elections.
While many investors believe that the House will eventually approve a reform saving around BRL 800bn in 10 years, one thing is certain: the relationship between the government and Congress remains far from ideal. Yesterday, the pension reform’s rapporteur lashed out at the president, saying he “has no sense of priority.” Mr. Bolsonaro went to the House not to discuss the most important piece of legislation of his administration—but to propose changes to the traffic code (more below).
Industrial output still sluggish
According to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics, Brazil’s industrial production went up 0.3% in April against March. However, when compared to April 2014, the sector registered a 3.9% drop.
The result was weaker than expected, reinforcing the notion of a stagnant economy at risk of entering recession. Most estimates polled by Valor Data had industrial growth at 0.7%. With such pedestrian results, Brazil’s industry remains 17.3% below its record-setting level of May 2011.
Once again, the overall performance was severely impacted by extractive activities (-9.7%), which recorded its 4th consecutive negative result—a span that witnessed a 25% retraction, due in large part to the repercussions of the January 25 Brumadinho dam collapse. On the other hand, the machinery production segment went up by 8.3%.
Football. Battling a rape accusation, footballer Neymar could leave Brazil’s squad for the Copa America, which starts on June 14, according to an executive at the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF). “It’s too much pressure on the boy,” said the executive. Neymar also faces an investigation for online crimes, as he posted nude pictures of his accuser on his Instagram feed.
Meat. The creation of a meat behemoth from the merger between BRF and Marfrig could yet face obstacles. When the latter purchased 51% of National Beef, one year ago, it gave the American company the right to sell its remaining 49% in case of a change in command. If the minority stakeholders opt for that, the new BRF-Marfrig company would have much less leverage. But sources close to Marfrig say that they are favorable to the merger and are leaning towards waiving that right.
Driving. President Jair Bolsonaro presented a bill to make Brazil’s traffic legislation much laxer. Among the main changes are: (1) truck drivers would no longer need to take drug tests to renew their permits, (2) the limit of traffic violations one may incur before losing a driver’s license would double, and (3) transporting children without the safety requirements would no longer be punishable with fines—only warnings. Experts say the changes will cause more accidents and deaths.
Lula. Federal prosecutors told the Superior Court of Justice—Brazil’s 2nd-highest—that former President Lula has served enough time for his first corruption conviction to be placed under a “semi-open” prison regime. That would allow Lula to work during the day—but he would have to be home during the night and on weekends. However, if the politician has a second conviction upheld by a court of appeals (a trial has not been scheduled) he would lose that benefit.
Diplomacy. In a cost-saving move, Brazil has decided to shut down diplomatic offices in the Caribbean—two embassies (Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda) and three offices (Granada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines). The closure was decided as a result of the offices’ low representativeness, little importance in global trade, and high costs.