(WASHINGTON – May 25, 2012) Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff today used her veto power to nix a dozen sections of the country's main forest protection law that would have granted blanket amnesty for past illegal deforestation and allowed tens of millions of acres of currently protected forest to be legally cleared, but the true value of the vetoes is unclear until the president issues her executive order Monday, said U.S.-based Environmental Defense Fund.
The version of the Forest Code that reached Rousseff's desk earlier this month for a signature or partial or full veto was pushed through the Chamber of Deputies last April with the support of the powerful large landowners and ranchers' caucus (or "ruralistas"). The provisions of the Forest Code she has just vetoed would have eliminated both incentives for farmers to comply with the law and public access to information on farmers' and ranchers' compliance with the law.
"President Rousseff has apparently acceded to Brazilian public opinion in vetoing the most flagrantly irresponsible sections of the ranchers' Forest Code, but we're not out of the woods yet," said Jennifer Haverkamp, EDF's International Climate Program Director. "What these vetoes really mean for the future of the forest -- and whether the law can be effectively enforced -- will depend on the specifics of the executive order (Medida Provisória) that the President will issue on Monday."
In a press conference today in Brasilia, Environment Minister Izabela Texeira said the government will not accept amnesty for past deforestation, and proposes to return to the version of the Forest Code passed by the Senate last year. But environmentalists note that the Senate version still allowed partial amnesty for past illegal deforestation. Minister Texeira also affirmed that the government intends to allow more leeway to small farmers than for large landholders in requirements to restore forest areas that were illegally cleared or degraded; the Chamber bill granted amnesty for large and small farmers alike.
The partial veto follows a high-profile national environmental campaign, "VetaDilma" (Veto [it] Dilma), calling on the President to veto the ranchers' Chamber bill, and featuring demonstrations across the country, viral YouTube videos, and high-trending Twitter posts. Environmental activist and supermodel Giselle Bundchen and other celebrities, including one of Brazil's most popular cartoon characters, farm boy Chico Bento, supported the campaign.
The Brazilian Academy of Science and Brazilian Society for the Advancement of Science, the country's two most prominent scientific organizations, also called for a veto, as did national organizations of judges and São Paulo business leaders. Legal experts, including the Brazilian Association of Magistrates, and environmentalists had called for a veto of the entire Chamber bill, maintaining that partial vetoes could introduce lacunae and ambiguities that would make the new law unenforceable.
Environmental Defense Fund (edf.org), a leading national nonprofit organization, creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. EDF links science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships. Connect with us on Twitter and Facebook.
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