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Lula Seeks to Mend Brazil Alliances Frayed by Amazon Destruction

·2 min read

(Bloomberg) -- Presidential front-runner Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva called for a radical overhaul of Brazil’s policies toward the Amazon after years of friction with the international community over accelerating deforestation.

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Following meetings this week with local leaders in the rainforest in northern Brazil, Lula said he’ll bolster environmental protection and indigenous land rights if he wins next month’s election.

Under President Jair Bolsonaro, the growing destruction of the world’s biggest rainforest has frayed ties with Brazil’s allies and trading partners, and drawn criticism from NGOs and celebrities. Lula, who served as president from 2003 to 2010, is on track to defeat Bolsonaro in the vote, polls show.

“Although the Amazon is Brazil’s sovereign territory, the wealth it produces has to be used by all the inhabitants of planet Earth,” he said at a campaign event in the state of Amazonas.

Read More: Brazil Cash Handouts and Angry Debate Fail to Dent Lula Lead

In Belem, capital of the Amazonian state of Para, Lula attended religious rituals by indigenous groups and met with descendants of African slaves, and fishermen who work on the rivers.

Some gave speeches in indigenous languages calling for more protection against violent invaders.

Anthropologist Beatriz Matos handed Lula a letter asking for better security for isolated indigenous people. She is the widow of indigenous activist Bruno Pereira, who was murdered in the Amazon with British journalist Dom Phillips in June.

Record Deforestation

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon reached a record high in the first half of 2022. Bolsonaro is popular among the cattle ranchers and soy farmers who have colonized swathes of Brazil’s vast interior.

Read More: Amazon Deforestation Hits Record High in New Blow to Bolsonaro

Since taking office in 2019, Bolsonaro relaxed environmental inspections, and encouraged the exploitation of indigenous and conservation areas.

Izabella Teixeira, an adviser to Lula on environmental issues, says rebuilding Brazil’s international partnerships must be one of the next president’s priorities. Lula has said he’ll appoint a special envoy for climate to help mend Brazil’s environmental image abroad.

Lula has also pledged to create a Ministry of Native Peoples to represent indigenous people and descendants of African slaves.

Carbon Market

Some allies of the former president have called for Brazil to form a bloc with Indonesia and Congo, countries with large tropical forests, to boost their strength in international forums.

One priority for a possible Lula government is the regulation of the carbon market, making it an instrument for rich countries to pay for environmental preservation in developing nations, according to Aloizio Mercadante, Lula’s campaign coordinator.

“We seek to regulate this market so Brazil and other countries with large tropical forests can start issuing credits,” Mercadante said in an interview. “We need to find ways to do so.”

(Adds interview with Lula’s campaign coordinator starting in 12th paragraph.)

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