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Latam Brief: Lula boosts conservation efforts (November 7, 2022)

Former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s victory in Brazil could be a game changer for Amazon conservation policies, and could provide a critical boost to international deforestation efforts. Lula, who takes office in January, has promised to fight for zero deforestation in the Amazon.

“Brazil is ready to resume its leading role in the fight against the climate crisis,” Mr. da Silva told supporters in his victory speech on Oct 30. “We will prove once again that it’s possible to generate wealth without destroying the environment.” (New York Times)

Brazil is advancing in talks with Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to form a strategic conservation alliance, nicknamed an “Opec for rainforests”, in keeping with a campaign promise of Lula’s, reports the Guardian.

The alliance could permit the countries to make joint proposals on carbon markets and finance, for developed countries to fund rainforest conservation. Carbon markets have been hampered by low prices, but an alliance could help boost the price for avoided CO2 emissions, reports Reuters.

The report comes as the U.N. COP27 climate summit is taking place in Sharm el-Sheikh. Lula could potentially attend, though he does not assume office until January.

Celso Amorim, Lula’s main foreign policy advisor, said the president-elect plans to invite regional leaders to an Amazon forest summit in 2023. (New York Times)

Deforestation accelerated significantly — a 72 percent increase — in Brazil under current President Jair Bolsonaro’s watch. The administration weakened enforcement of regulations, slashed funding for environmental agencies, fired experts, and undermined Indigenous rights. And activists say illicit deforestation activities were emboldened by Bolsonaro’s encouragement.

Bolsonaro’s government pledged last year, at COP26, to end Brazilian deforestation by 2028. Preliminary government data shows Brazil far off that track, with forest clearing rising another 23% in 2022 after hitting a 15-year high in 2021. (Reuters)

Lula oversaw an 80 percent decline in deforestation during his presidencies, and has promised to repeat the feat, though analysts say he will struggle to implement a conservation agenda with a unfavorable Congress. (New York Times and New York Times)

Nonetheless, some predictions are optimistic. An analysis by the climate website Carbon Brief suggests that under Lula’s next administration, annual deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon could be down by nearly 90 percent by the end of the decade. (Vox)

During this campaign, Lula outlined an ambitious set of green development proposals and promised to restore protections for Indigenous communities. (Huffington Post)

A key task for Lula’s government will be to restore the agencies and nongovernmental organizations that work on the ground to protect indigenous lands as well as protected Amazon rainforest, notes Axios.

Norway’s minister of climate and environment told reporters that he would be in touch with Lula resume cooperation between the two countries. Between 2009 and 2019, Norway and Germany donated over $1.2 billion to the Amazon Fund, a financing mechanism for environmental protection agencies in Brazil, developed in Lula’s presidency. Bolsonaro disbanded the fund’s governing body, which froze all of its operations. (New York Times)

More Environment

  • Indigenous Kukama protesters in Peru released more than 100 tourists and local people who were held on a boat for more than a day in an attempt to force the government to react to oil spills in the Loreto Amazon region. Indigenous leaders vowed that protests and river blockades would continue, reports the Guardian.

  • Unregulated extraction off Brazil’s coast will have irreversible impacts on coastal and marine ecosystems, according to a Diálogo Chino explainer on the promise and perils marine mining in the “blue Amazon.”


  • Haitian gang leader Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier declared the end of a two-month blockade of the country’s main oil terminal and seaports, yesterday. But even as Cherizier’s video message made the rounds Sunday, police were reporting heavy shootings in the area where the terminal is located, reports the Miami Herald.

  • Gasoline and diesel shortages related to the blockade have halted almost all economic activity in Haiti, including in transportation and hospitals, and forced many local business owners to shut operations, reports Reuters.


  • Consensus among Venezuela’s opposition parties and the international community about participating in the country’s next presidential elections — even if they are held by the Maduro government — presents a unique opportunity for national democratic comeback, argues Guillermo Zubillaga in Americas Quarterly.


  • Nearly 7,000 Venezuelan migrants have been authorized to travel to the United States under a new Biden administration program. Officials launched the program, which allows U.S. sponsors to apply for migrants, two weeks ago. It remains unclear what will happen when the 24,000 slots fill up, a small fraction of the nearly 190,000 Venezuelans apprehended at the southern border last fiscal year, notes the Washington Post.


  • The Ecuadorean government’s strategy of transferring gang members from one prison to another seems to be fueling a wave violence in the country, according to InSight Crime.


  • Colombia’s peace deal with the FARC has particularly failed women, who made up a third of the guerrilla group’s fighters, reports the Guardian. Six years on, only about 12% of gender provisions in the peace deal have been implemented compared with 30% overall.


  • Brazilian government leaders learned from the 2020 post election chaos in the U.S. and buttressed the system ahead of this year’s divisive presidential vote, reports the New York Times. Rapid results were a key element in fending off unsubstantiated allegations of irregularities.

Bolivia El Alto mayor Eva Copa’s rise reflects a diversifying political landscape in Bolivia that is challenging both the ruling MAS party and the country’s right-wing opposition, reports Americas Quarterly.

Jordana Timerman / Latin America Daily Briefing

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