Workers’s Party’s Lula may be president but Brazilian Congress still dominated by right-wing Bolsonaro supporters
Commentators and the green lobby have cautiously welcomed Workers’s Party’s Luis Ignacio ‘Lula’ da Silva’s win in the run-off to the Brazilian presidential polls October 30, 2022. They have added that “the hard work of undoing the damage” caused by four years of the Jair Bolsonaro regime on the Amazon rainforest begins now.
The Amazon has been “damaged” because many of the officials in the Bolsonaro regime were from the agribusiness sector, “which has long pushed for the legalisation of land robbing and opposes the creation of protected areas such as Indigenous territories”, according to news agency Associated Press (AP).
Bolsonaro’s Liberal Party will hold the largest number of seats in the new Brazilian Congress or parliament, which were contested along with the presidential poll. “In 2023, the agribusiness sector, which backed Bolsonaro's failed reelection bid, will control about half of the Congress,” AP noted.
Jonathan Watts, the founder of the journal Sumauma and environment writer for The Guardian tweeted that Lula faced huge challenges including a divided country, a hostile Congress and the huge task of rebuilding the organs of environmental protection that were gutted by Bolsonaro and his former environment minister, Ricardo Salles.
Sabrina Fernandes, Brazilian sociologist and activist told television station Democracy Now! that Lula would have to compromise with moderates in Congress in an attempt to legislate policies he campaigned on.
Lula himself outlined the importance of the environment and the Amazon rainforest in his first speech after winning the election.
“Brazil and the planet need a living Amazon. A standing tree is worth more than tonnes of wood illegally harvested by those who think only of easy profit. A river of clear water is worth more than gold extracted at the expense of mercury that kills fauna and risks human life,” he said.
Lula said Brazil under him would resume monitoring and surveillance of the Amazon, and combat any and all illegal activity – whether mining, mining, logging or improper agricultural occupation.
“At the same time, we will promote the sustainable development of communities living in the Amazon region. Let us prove once again that it is possible to generate wealth without destroying the environment,” the president-elect said. He also promised a new indigenous ministry.
Watts was of the opinion that the world should support Brazil under Lula “to do the right thing in the Amazon”. “The coming COP climate conference will be a good place to start. The rainforests and their people need to be far more central in global debates,” Watts tweeted.
Christian Poirer, program director of the United States-based non-profit, Amazon Watch said in a statement that Lula must use the political power won at the polls to pressure Congress to stop votes for bills that seek to advance attacks against the forest and indigenous peoples.
“The violence in the Amazon is expected to accelerate in these last (two) months of Bolsonaro’s administration, it is necessary to remain vigilant and ready to denounce and fight all crimes,” Poirer noted.
Survival International, an organisation that campaigns for the rights of indigenous peoples and uncontacted tribes globally, said in a statement that Lula’s pledges were welcome.
“But we are not expecting a u-turn overnight. His team will need to exert substantial political will and resources to undo the deep damage that has been done to the institutions charged with protecting indigenous territories from invaders,” the statement, authored by Sarah Shenker, the head of Survival Brazil, noted.
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