Thursday, April 15, 2021

Brazil's plan to curb deforestation (April 15, 2021)

 The Brazilian government has presented a new official plan for fighting deforestation in the Amazon yesterday -- It prioritizes for deforestation mitigation five of the nine states within the "Legal Amazon," itself equivalent to some 60% of Brazil's territory, and previews several changes in the way the federal government and the states comprising the basin handle the vast area, reports CNN

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro celebrates his country's commitment to environmental conservation in a letter to U.S. President Joe Biden, promising to eliminate deforestation by 2030, ahead of next week's U.S. Leaders' Summit on Climate, reports Globo. Bolsonaro has in fact actively undermined rainforest conservation since taking office. Environmental destruction has surged under Bolsonaro, deforestation increased by 34.4% between 2018 and 2019, and another 9.5% by 2020. In 2019, the Amazon lost 8,192 square miles to deforestation, an area the size of El Salvador. 

Critics say the government's plan is not nearly enough: The plan aims to lower annual deforestation loss to the average recorded between 2016 and 2020 by next year. That target still allows for about 16% more deforestation than in the year before President Jair Bolsonaro took office, notes CNN. Marcio Astrini, head of the Brazilian environmental advocacy network Climate Observatory, says the government's plan essentially admits to allowing increased forest clearing.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki downplayed a possible climate change agreement between the U.S. and Brazil -- an issue that raised significant concerns among Brazilian conservationists. (See Tuesday's post.) In a press conference yesterday she said countries invited to the U.S. Leaders' Summit on Climate will be presenting their own national plans, rather than bilateral deals. 

Regarding Brazil, she said "we do want to see a clear commitment to ending illegal deforestation, tangible steps to increase effective enforcement of illegal deforestation, and a political signal that illegal deforestation and encroachment will not be tolerated.  And we believe it’s realistic for Brazil to achieve a real decrease in deforestation by the end of the 2021 fire season."

According to Folha de S. Paulo, earlier this week, that U.S. Ambassador to Brazil, Todd Chapman, had told Brazilian officials that relations between the two countries depend on Brazil demonstrating environmental commitment. 

More Brazil
  • Brazil’s Supreme Court ruled that a Senate investigation into President Jair Bolsonaro's handling of the Covid-19 pandemic should move forward. The court voted 10-1 Wednesday to uphold an earlier order that the Senate should start an investigation because a required number of senators had sponsored such a call. The Senate president had tried to delay the probe, citing pandemic health restrictions, reports the Associated Press.
News Briefs

St. Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Volcanic eruptions on St. Vincent since last week have displaced about 20 percent of the Caribbean island’s population, and ash from La Soufrière volcano has coated St. Vincent and neighboring islands, including Barbados. (See Monday's post.) A UN official warned of a growing humanitarian crisis, and that 20,000 people are “estimated at risk of food insecurity, given the loss of the assets in terms of livelihood like fisheries, or agriculture." (Associated Press)
  • The ash is contaminating crops and drinking water in the area. Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said in a news conference Tuesday that he estimated the eruptions have caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage. (Washington Post)
  • The U.N. is set to launch a funding appeal to support Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
  • The Dominican Republic launched a plan to legalize Venezuelan migrants who arrived in the country between 2014 and 2020. Government officials said 17,000 Venezuelan's applied normalize their immigration status within the plan's first 48 hours. (Hoy Digital, NTN24)
  • The U.S. Biden administration’s diplomatic efforts to reduce immigration from Central America face a significant challenge: many of the Northern Triangle countries' leaders are considered complicit in the conditions that drive so many people to leave home, such as poverty and violence, reports the Los Angeles Times. Vice President Kamala Harris has resisted setting specific goals on the issue since she was tapped to lead the administration's efforts to reduce immigration, last month.
  • Mexican President Andres Manuel López Obrador is on a collision course with the country's well-regarded national electoral institute (INE) -- ahead of mid-term elections later this year. The conflict risks stoking fear or indifference among voters, which would ultimately benefit AMLO's Morena party, according to Jacqueline Peschard in Americas Quarterly.
  • Mexico’s Senate passed legislation to require cellphone companies to gather customers’ identification and biometric data, like fingerprints or eye scans -- a move activists and opposition figures say would put individual data at risk without doing much to reduce crime. (Associated Press)
  • Mexico’s unwillingness to spend money, do more testing, change course or react to new scientific evidence contributed to the country being one of the worst-hit by the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Institute for Global Health Sciences, at the University of California. (Associated Press)
  • Venezuela’s government wants funds frozen in the United States to be put toward paying for coronavirus vaccines. Nicolás Maduro's government will keep working with the opposition to negotiate this payment, said National Assembly head Jorge Rodríguez. (Reuters)
More Brazil
  • Brazil's P1 coronavirus variant is mutating in ways that could make it better able to evade antibodies, according to scientists studying the virus. (Reuters)
  • A Chinese health official's comment that the country's CoronaVac vaccine doesn't have the highest efficiency fanned already significant flames of vaccine hesitancy among right-wing media consumers in South American countries that are using the jab -- particularly Brazil. (Washington Post)
  • The coronavirus situation in Uruguay has now reached alarming levels, reports EFE.
  • Argentina’s government announced new pandemic restrictions in the Buenos Aires metropolitan region to rein in a sharp spike in Covid-19 cases, including shutting schools and imposing an 8 pm curfew. (Reuters)
  • Peruvian right-wing presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori, who will compete head-to-head with leftist Pedro Castillo in a second-round ballot in June, said the election will be a battle between “markets and Marxism," reports Reuters.
  • Ecuadorean authorities detained the country’s comptroller and a former energy minister as part of an investigation into corruption at three state institutions, including oil company Petroecuador. (Reuters)
  • Latin America has not elected a single woman president in the last seven years, notes Vanessa Rubio in Americas Quarterly. While Latin America has had 11 female presidents in modern history, half of them rose to power under extraordinary circumstances and constitutional ruptures.
  • Neglected tropical diseases are the landmines of global health, argue Albert Picado and John H Amuasi in the Guardian. They are 20 disparate diseases that, like mines, unduly affect the world’s poorest people.
  • Heidi Paster Harf portrays the growing world of "emergent Jews" in Cali, mainly evangelicals who have shed their previous religious doctrines to practice strict Orthodox Judaism -- photo essay in the Washington Post.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...

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