Brazil's Congress weakens pro-environment ministries in a rejection of Lula

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FILE - The new Minister of Indigenous Peoples, Sonia Guajajara, left, Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, center, and the new President of the National Foundation of the Indian, Joenia Wapichana, celebrate during their inauguration ceremony at Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, Jan. 11, 2023. In a rejection of early moves by Lula who took office in January, Brazils Congress on June 1, 2023 stripped powers from the new Ministry of Indigenous Peoples and Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, both led by women environmentalists. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File)

RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazil’s Congress has stripped powers away from the country's new Ministry of Indigenous Peoples and Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, both led by women environmentalists. It's a rejection of the priorities of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who took office in January,

The move shows the increasing power of Brazil’s so-called “beef caucus,” shorthand for cattle businesses and other large-scale agriculture that together control the majority of both legislative chambers in the country.

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Objecting to what he called "constraints on agribusiness that could harm exports,” Senator Carlos Viana said during the voting session on Thursday that “The main points (of the caucus) have been addressed.”

The changes prevent the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples, led by Sonia Guajajara, from legalizing the boundaries of any new Indigenous territories and keep the Ministry of Environment, run by Marina Silva, from managing a national property registry that's a key tool for monitoring illegal deforestation. These and other authorities will be transferred to other federal government branches.

The beef caucus opposes the legalization of more Indigenous lands. It also opposes measures to control deforestation, which rose sharply under the last administration of Jair Bolsonaro.

Critics argue that the leftist leader Lula did not try hard enough to avert the action in Congress. Last week, the president dismissed that criticism saying that “we shouldn't be scared of politics.” Allies of the president also argue that he retains ultimate authority over the environment and Indigenous affairs.


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