May 20, 2022

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Brazil stars protest Bolsonaro environmental policy

Brazil stars protest Bolsonaro environmental policy

Iconic Brazilian singer Caetano Veloso led a star-studded protest Wednesday against President Jair Bolsonaro’s environmental policy, seeking to block a series of bills activists say would be devastating for the Amazon rainforest and beyond.

Veloso, 79, one of Brazil’s most celebrated musicians, led a rally outside Congress in Brasilia, set to be followed by a concert that will also feature stars such as singer Daniela Mercury, rapper Emicida and musician and actor Seu Jorge.

Protesters are pressuring lawmakers to vote down a series of bills backed by Bolsonaro that would pardon illegal seizures of public land, restrict the amount of territory eligible to be designated as indigenous reservations and open existing indigenous land to mining, among other measures.

Dubbed the “destruction package” by the more than 200 groups sponsoring the protest, the legislation has been condemned by environmentalists.

They say it will accelerate the destruction of the Amazon, where deforestation has surged since Bolsonaro took office in 2019.

The Brazilian Amazon lost 13,235 square kilometers (5,110 square miles) of forest cover from August 2020 to July 2021, a 15-year high, according to government figures.

Bolsonaro has been pushing particularly hard to pass legislation to allow mining on indigenous reservations, arguing the conflict in Ukraine has made it vital for agricultural powerhouse Brazil to reduce its dependence on imported fertilizers, which it notably sources from Russia.

The far-right president’s allies in the lower house are pushing to pass the bill under special emergency provisions, bypassing committee discussions.

“We must use our reserves of potassium (a key fertilizer ingredient) and guarantee enough fertilizer for our farmers,” said the administration’s leader in the lower house, Ricardo Barros.

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Opposition lawmaker Rodrigo Agostinho said the administration was trying to use the Ukraine crisis as an “excuse.”

“This bill will damage Brazil’s image, the environment and the health of those who live in the Amazon,” he told AFP.

“This is about giving free reign to illegal mining, not fertilizers,” he added, saying Brazil’s potassium reserves were largely outside the Amazon.

Brazil, the world’s top exporter of soy and beef, imports around 80 percent of its fertilizers, and 96 percent of those using potassium.