In a letter to Biden, influential Democratic senators accuse Bolsonaro of giving the green light to criminals in the Amazon

A week before the Leaders’ Climate Summit, a group of influential Democratic senators, including Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Robert Menendez, sent a letter to U.S. President Joe Biden, stating that Bolsonaro had publicly ridiculed Ibama (Institute Brazilian Environment) and undermined the agency’s ability to enforce the country’s environmental laws, in addition to calling environmentalists “cancer” and trying to reduce protection for indigenous reserves.

“President Bolsonaro’s rhetoric and policies have effectively given the green light to dangerous criminals operating in the Amazon, allowing them to greatly expand their activities,” the text said.

In the letter dated April 15, Menendez and Senators Patrick Leahy, Chris Van Hollen, Sheldon Whitehouse, Brian Schatz, Bernie Sanders (independent), Chris Murphy and Jeffrey Merkley ask that the United States only transfer resources to Bolsonaro if Brazil shows progress in reducing deforestation and fighting impunity for environmental crimes.

“Given the history of unfulfilled climate commitments, we believe we must impose conditions to send US aid to Brazil: significant and lasting progress in reducing deforestation and ending impunity for environmental crimes and intimidation and violence against forest defenders, ”he said. the American leader, who will host the virtual meeting on environmental issues on April 22 and 23.

Senators also urge Biden to consider these two factors, deforestation and impunity for environmental crimes, to assess “whether the United States will support Brazil in areas of mutual interest, such as military and economic cooperation. and Brazil’s candidacy for membership in the OECD ”, The Club of Rich Countries.

“This letter from the senators should serve as a warning to the Bolsonaro government. His disastrous policies in the Amazon are well known in Washington, and Bolsonaro will not be able to change his image simply by using climate-friendly rhetoric without concrete results, ”said Daniel Wilkinson, director of environment and human rights at the NGO Human Rights Watch.

On Wednesday (14), Bolsonaro sent a seven-page letter to Biden, in which he pledged to eliminate illegal deforestation in Brazil by 2030. The president also signaled that Brazil could anticipate by 2050 the target. long-term to achieve a ten-year change in neutrality. before it was initially assumed. Bolsonaro, however, stressed that anticipation depends on the viability of “significant annual resources, which contribute in this direction”.

Bolsonaro’s text was thought of as a way to turn the page and start climate negotiations with the Biden government on the right foot – however, the commitments Bolsonaro announced in the letter were deemed “unambitious” by members of the US government.

The Biden government has come under pressure from environmental and human rights organizations not to strike a resource transfer deal to the Bolsonaro government. In a recent meeting with members of the team of John Kerry, the White House special envoy for climate, the organizations stressed that the Brazilian president should not be trusted and that the transfer of resources before real progress is made would reward the setback in the country’s environmental policy. and help with Bolsonaro’s public relations strategy.

Brazilian Environment Minister Ricardo Salles tried to convince the United States to send money to Brazil in exchange for deforestation reduction targets. In an interview with the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo, he said he would be able to reduce the devastation of the Amazon rainforest by up to 40% in 12 months – but only if he received US $ 1 billion. from foreign countries.

In the letter to Biden, Democratic senators say the Bolsonaro government “has repeatedly expressed interest in working with the United States on environmental issues, but so far has shown no serious interest in working with the United States on environmental issues. with multiple actors in Brazil who would have roles in any country. serious attempt to save the Amazon ”. To this end, they list the actions of the Brazilian government in relation to environmentalists, NGOs, Ibama and indigenous reserves.

The text also highlights that Bolsonaro’s contribution to the nationally determined emission reduction in December is less ambitious than the initial 2016 target and would in practice allow Brazil to increase its emissions over the next decade.

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