Paul Kiernan – The Wall Street Journal, 01/14/2016
Brazil’s Federal Police have accused seven people and three companies, including mining giant Vale SA and its joint-venture Samarco Mineração SA, of environmental crimes in response to a major dam collapse in November.
The move, which has no exact equivalent in the U.S. legal system, will trigger the beginning of a deeper investigation by police. It typically represents a step toward formal charges, which in Brazil can only be filed by prosecutors, often after police have presented their findings.
The accusations mark the latest response by Brazilian authorities to what some have called the country’s worst-ever environmental disaster. On Nov. 5, Samarco’s Fundão tailings dam suddenly collapsed, releasing a flood of sludge that buried rural villages, killed 19 people and polluted more than 400 miles of the Rio Doce basin.
Herton Escobar – SCIENCE Magazine, 5/29/2015
When Carlos Jared tried to ship a jar of dead velvet worms collected in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest to a colleague in Germany in 2006, he had no plans to derive a drug or other product from the creatures. He just wanted to probe the reproductive system of a rare invertebrate that gives birth to live young. But Brazilian authorities denounced him as a “biopirate.”
The evolutionary biologist at the Instituto Butantan in São Paulo had run afoul of a law aiming to clamp down on what Brazil perceived as rampant pillaging of its biological resources. Jared hadn’t filled out all the paperwork required under law MP 2186, so the worms were confiscated. Worse was yet to come. “They dragged my name through the mud. It was a psychological massacre,” he says. It took him 6 years to get another permit for fieldwork, and he is still fighting in court thousands of dollars in fines.
Interview with Thomas Lovejoy – Veja, 5/20/2015
In an interview with the Brazilian publication Veja, Thomas Lovejoy, Senior Fellow at the UN Foundation, Professor at George Mason University and member of the Brazil Institute Advisory Board , argues that infrastructural development and environmental conservation can – and should – coexist in Brazil. Lovejoy elaborates on two fundamental pillars necessary for sustainable development: research and development as well as political will. According to his extensive research in the Amazon over the last fifty years, Brazilian scientists have gained credibility and prominence for their research worldwide. However it is essential for that ‘know-how’ to be implemented in projects locally, such as hydroelectric dams, enabling their construction and maintenance to become as environmentally friendly as possible. Yet, Lovejoy argues that science is not enough. Rather, a “triple-bottom line” approach – focusing on the effects to people, planet and politics/profits of a project – is a way to preserve biodiversity in the Amazon. Thomas Lovejoy stresses that, although politicians have passed important environmental protection legislation in recent years, new energy project initiatives by the public and private sector need to recognize the value of the flora, fauna and indigenous populations surrounding rivers, instead of solely focusing on the energy-generating capacity of hydroelectric dams. Furthermore, Lovejoy argues that the lack of sustainable development – both locally and globally – have contributed to climate change, deforestation and loss of biodiversity in Brazil and worldwide.
Read more in Portuguese…
Donna Bowater – The Independent, 5/10/2015
The Brazilian rainforest could be effectively nationalised under a draft bill being considered by the country’s MPs.
The proposed legislation would recognise the sovereignty of Brazil over the Amazon’s natural resources and set up a national Amazonian policy council with the aim of enshrining environmental protection and regulating economic activities in the rainforest.
Should the law be passed, companies wanting to operate in the area would require approval from the new state entity in return for shares of the proceeds – in a similar way to that which oil exploration concessions are granted through state-controlled company Petrobras in return for royalties.
Claire Rigby – The Guardian, 4/23/2015
From downtown São Paulo, the Pico do Jaraguá – the crest of a mountain ridge on the city’s north-western horizon – looks like a broken tooth, crowned by a towering TV antenna. Just beyond the rocky peak and down a steep, deeply rutted, unmade road, lies the nascent village of Tekoa Itakupe, one of the newest fronts in Brazil’s indigenous people’s struggle for land to call their own.
Once part of a coffee plantation, the idyllic 72-hectare plot is currently occupied by three families from the Guarani community who moved onto the land in July 2014 after it was recognised as traditional Guarani territory by Funai, the federal agency for Indian affairs.
The group had hoped that would be a first step on the road to its eventual official demarcation as indigenous territory, but they now face eviction after a judge granted a court order to the landowner, Antônio ‘Tito’ Costa, a lawyer and former local politician.
Robert Muggah – Open Democracy, 2/20/2015
If ever there was a good time for Brazil to assume more global responsibility in foreign affairs now would be it. Dangerous armed conflicts, health pandemics and climate change warrant assertive engagement from the world´s major players, including South America´s powerhouse. Brazil could play a critical role in promoting stability in an uncertain world. Worryingly, the country is nowhere to be seen.
Brazilian foreign policy is in the dark. Part of the problem is that its leaders are distracted. This is maybe not altogether surprising: the country’s economy is in the doldrums. Brazil’ new finance minister, Joaquim Levy, described Brazil´s economic prospects in 2015 as “almost flat”. Brazil is now one of the Fragile Five, alongside Indonesia, Russia, South Africa and Turkey. Unprecedented bribery scandals involving the national oil company, Petrobras, and a host of construction firms, will likely tip the already damaged economy into a recession.
Some Brazilian commentators resist a more activist foreign policy. They are understandably preoccupied with making critical reforms at home to increase productivity and competitiveness rather than promoting Brazilian interests abroad. But this is a false choice: domestic reform should not come at the expense of foreign policy. On the contrary. Brazil urgently needs to bolster its strategic interests in its own neighborhood and beyond.