Brasilia – An amendment to the structure of the government of Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, to be considered by Congress, would deprive the ministries of Environment and Indigenous Peoples of important functions to meet the climate goals of the leftist ruler, warned yesterday their Headlines.
“It is a great setback, it is taking away the leading role of indigenous peoples and it goes totally against what President Lula is defending: to recognize, value and guarantee the participation of indigenous peoples in decision-making spaces,” said the Minister of Indigenous Peoples, Sonia Guajajara.
The unprecedented portfolio was created by Lula when he took office on January 1 and received the powers to demarcate indigenous reserves, territories protected by law. This initiative was also celebrated by environmentalists, who consider these territories an important tool against deforestation and climate change.
But the legality of that decision depends on approval in Congress, since it is a provisional measure, a kind of presidential resolution that needs to be approved by the Legislative Branch in the first six months of the government to remain in force.
And Lula’s government, despite alliances with some center-right groups, has not secured a majority on all issues.
The measure on the structure of the government was voted at the closing of this edition in a commission of the Chamber of Deputies, but with important amendments, before addressing the plenary session of the two legislative chambers next week.
The bill with modifications, in charge of the deputy Isnaldo Bulhões, of the PMBD (party allied to the Government), would leave the demarcation of lands in the hands of the Ministry of Justice.
And it would also modify the powers of the Environment portfolio, by stripping it of the rural environmental registry and water management.
According to Guajajara, the changes seek to satisfy the “ruralist bench” in Congress, associated with agribusiness, a sector accused of promoting the occupation of indigenous lands.
“It will weaken” the international image of Brazil, he warned.
“The world is waiting for this change in the government’s position on environmental and climate issues, and the creation of the Ministry was a sign of that change. If you deprive the Ministry of the main division, it will also cause damage to the government and to Brazil on the international stage”, he added.
“This can create very serious damage to the economic, social and environmental interests” of Brazil, said the Minister of the Environment, Marina Silva, on her social networks.
In this context, the state oil company Petrobras said that it will present an appeal this week against the decision of the environmental agency Ibama to block the drilling of a well at the mouth of the Amazon river.
The company said it is willing to comply with any additional requirements from Ibama despite considering that so far it has met “all the technical needs” for the project to be approved.
Ibama’s decision last week to block the drilling caused a split in President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s coalition between those who want to prioritize environmental protection and those who want to use Petrobras to fuel much-needed growth.
Lula himself said he found it “difficult” to believe that offshore oil drilling in the Amazon basin would cause environmental damage because it would take place miles away from the rainforest, but added that if the drilling poses a problem for the Amazon, of course it would not be carried out.