January 6, 2015

Awá: Miss Deforestation Confirmed as Minister for Agriculture of the Federative Republic of Brazil

Despite the great concerns expressed by environmentalists and representatives of indigenous communities, Brazilian President Rousseff confirmed her choice of Ms Katia Abreu, a leader of the agricultural lobby also known as the “Chainsaw Queen” as Minister for Agriculture. In the past, Ms Abreu, who was probably appointed as a reward by Ms Rousseff to her political allies, has proposed the construction of more roads that cut through the Amazon, the weakening of Brazil’s “forest code” and greater control over the delimitation of indigenous reserves. The decision is of great concern for the impact her policies may have on Brazil’s already threatened indigenous peoples. The nomination of a climate-change sceptic for the post of Science and Technology Minister is also controversial. 

Photo courtesy of Leonardo F. Freitas@flickr

Below is an article by The Guardian:

Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff has stirred up the wrath of environmentalists by appointing a controversial advocate of agribusiness and weaker forest conservation as her new agriculture minister.

Kátia Abreu, who has been nicknamed the “chainsaw queen” by her enemies, is included in a new cabinet that rewards political allies who supported Rousseff in her recent narrow re-election victory.

Abreu is a leading figure in the “ruralista” lobby, which prompted the government to weaken Brazil’s forest code. In congressional debates and in her feisty newspaper column, she has called for more roads through the Amazon, congressional control over demarcation of indigenous reserves, more efficient monocultures, and the approval of genetically modified “terminator seeds”.

The cabinet post is a step towards bigger ambitions for Abreu, a formidable political operator. In an interview with The Guardian this year, Abreu said she wanted to make Brazil the leading agricultural producer in the world. She also expressed her desire to emulate former UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher, and said she was preparing to run for president one day.

Abreu says she is an advocate of sustainable development and insists that Brazilian agriculture can overtake the US without any further deforestation.

But her promotion has horrified many environmental campaigners. In a statement headed “Miss Deforestation is the new agricultural minister,” Greenpeace warned that the Rousseff administration was now set on an alarming course.

“By choosing Katiá Abreu, the president has confirmed that the path the government will take in the coming years will put agribusiness above the environment”, it said, claiming the senator had was a leading figure in forest destruction and suppression of the rights of rural workers and indigenous people.

Reinforcing such concerns, the new science and technology minister will be Aldo Rebelo – a man with a reputation as a climate change sceptic. In a tweet posted several years ago, Rebelo used a cold spell in São Paulo to mock claims of global warming and support the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam.

“Hello, Sao Paulo, cold in here, huh? Where are the advocates of global warming now? In the shops, buying the last heater ... Electric! Long live Belo Monte!”, he said.

Rebelo is reshuffled from a post as sports minister, where he was widely criticised for the delays and poor public relations that marred preparations for this year’s World Cup.