Monday, May 2, 2022

US beef consumption harms Brazilian Amazon (May 2, 2022)

A new Washington Post investigation reveals the key relationship between beef consumed in the United States and deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon. Since the US began to allow imports of raw Brazilian beef two years ago, the country has become Brazil’s second-biggest buyer. 

One prominent example of the issue is JBS, the world’s largest meat processing company and a Brazilian giant—the company is the principal supplier of Brazilian beef to the US. A recent study by environmental groups found that the company’s carbon emissions have grown more than 50 percent over the last five years, according to the Financial Times. Despite repeated accusations from environmentalists of buying cattle from deforested land, JBS has created an environmental “good guy” image, claiming to prioritize the environment and blocking deals with those not complying with company standards. But the Post’s investigation found that JBS is not as environmentally friendly as it claims, with JBS often indirectly buying cattle from illegally deforested ranches. 

Cattle raised on deforested land goes through a system of “cattle laundering” in order to land on the US consumer’s table. Through a complex web of indirect suppliers, ranchers move cattle raised on deforested land between ranches until it ends up at a “clean” ranch with environmental credentials. From there, it is bought by processors such as JBS, who can feign ignorance, and eventually exported to the US. 

This is able to occur for a few key reasons. For starters, “cattle are not tracked individually in Brazil, as they are in neighboring Argentina and in Europe. All that ranchers with embargoed land have to do is ship their cattle to properties with clean environmental records.” Moreover, “the US agency that authorizes Brazil’s meatpacking plants to export to the United States says it doesn’t try to determine whether the operations cause environmental damage,” and deregulation in recent years have allowed grocers to withhold country of origin information from consumers. 

Perhaps most importantly, despite significant gains in combating deforestation during the 2000s and early 2010s, the Bolsonaro administration has worked to dismantle the Brazilian state apparatus to protect the Amazon and prevent deforestation. Despite promising to fight deforestation in international forums, Bolsonaro has cut environmental budgets throughout his tenure, reports the Guardian. The government has sought to downplay deforestation and Bolsonaro has even promoted internal migration to the interior of the country, seeing these populations as a key part of his electoral base. Indeed, “a network of social media accounts with ties to the Brazilian military… posed as fake non-profits to play down the dangers of deforestation” over the past year before being taken down by Meta, Facebook’s parent company, notes the Guardian

Deforestation in the Amazon has grown greatly in recent years, particularly under the Bolsonaro administration, reaching a 15-year high during the 2020-2021 period, says Axios

More Brazil

  • Former Brazilian president and current frontrunner for the upcoming elections, Lula, said at an event last Saturday that if elected, he would close shooting clubs, instead replacing them with reading clubs. “We will replace arms with books,” he remarked, according to Metrópoles

News Briefs


  • Federico "Fico" Gutiérrez, the second-leading candidate for the presidency, asserted in an interview with CNN that he would “continue to be generous” with Venezuelans in Colombia, continuing policies from the Duque administration. 


  • AMLO has pressed for greater energy independence, including the construction of a major Pemex oil refinery currently being built, but failing to meet budgetary and timeline expectations. Reuters reports that “two sources with direct knowledge of the project's finances say the latest cost estimate has reached $14 billion, or some $5 billion over budget.” 


  • In Tierra del Fuego, an already weak energy infrastructure is at risk of collapse due to crypto mining efforts in the southern province, according to Buenos Aires Times.

  • British fintech firm Revolut has set up a waiting list for Argentines interested using the newly-released Beta version of its banking services app. The firm has already hired country managers in Brazil and Mexico, reports Bloomberg Linea.


  • Following two years of border closures, Chile has reopened the remaining 22 land borders with Argentina, Bolivia, and Peru, reports Buenos Aires Times.


  • President Xiomara Castro has been facing increased pressure from activists and civil rights organizations to advance women’s rights in the country, with specific calls to enact her campaign promise of legalizing emergency contraception. Some supporters of the initiative worry about the impact the Catholic Church may have on the President’s decision. Pro-life activists strongly oppose the use of emergency contraception. (New York Times)


  • Iran and Venezuela are expected to sign energy cooperation deals today following a rare visit to Caracas from Iranian oil minister Javad Owji, reports Bloomberg.

  • Military operations by the Bolivarian National Armed Forces (FANB) aimed at carrying out anti-drug actions allegedly violated Colombian air and land space, according to the Colombian Ministry of Defense. The Bolivarian government strongly denies these allegations and emphasized its willingness to defend national sovereignty, reports La Prensa Latina.


  • Indigenous protestors were not expelled from the Chinese-owned Las Bambas mine within the 15 day deadline that requires taking the matter to court, in accordance with Peruvian law, reports Bloomberg. The mine accounts for 2% of the world’s copper supply and 1% of Peru’s GDP. (Reuters)

  • Following a Binational Cabinet meeting in which Presidents Guillermo Lasso and Pedro Castillo were present, Peru and Ecuador agreed to strengthen cooperation on border area development with a particular focus on water projects and road integration, among other issues. (Macau Business)

  • President Pedro Castillo returned to his country by car after a visit to Ecuador to avoid impeachment. Had he failed to return to Peru by midnight on Friday, the deadline set to him by Congress, he would have risked facing his third impeachment attempt in nine months. (International Business Times)


  • Haiti’s 400 Mawozo gang, one of the gangs involved in the country’s recent uptick in violence, kidnapped Dominican trade attaché Carlos Guillen on Friday, reports BBC.

Dominican Republic

  • According to the National Drug Control Directorate (DNCD), Dominican authorities seized 700 packages of cocaine on Sunday. The intended origin and destination of the drugs are not yet known. (La Prensa Latina)


  • The president of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) proposed a new energy-focused initiative to help the region advance energy transition and make progress towards reaching the UN-backed Sustainable Development Goals. (St. Lucia Times)


  • President Guillermo Lasso declared a state of emergency in the provinces of Guayas, Manabi and Esmeraldas last Friday, citing drug-related violence, reports Al Jazeera. This is the second time Lasso has declared a state of emergency to counter violence in the country, which he blames on drug traffickers. Drug trafficking organizations have used Ecuador as a transit country, primarily for cocaine, for shipments en route to North America via Mexico and Central America.


  • “Since 2018, twenty-two Guatemalan judges and anti-corruption prosecutors have gone into exile,” reports The New Yorker. The long-form piece explores their stories, additionally noting that Guatemalan officials lobbied Republican lawmakers in the United States during the Trump administration, seeking to portray anti-corruption and transparency efforts as “a vehicle for the left.” 

El Salvador

  • Nayib Bukele has arrested over 19,000 suspected gang members in April. Nine out of ten Salvadorans approve of his increased security policies, reports The Economist, despite concerns over human rights abuses and lack of due process.

Costa Rica

  • Costa Rica’s Ministry of Science, Innovation, Technology, and Telecommunications (Micitt) reported over 4 million cyber-attacks on the country’s public institutions in the span of 24 hours. No encryption or data theft has been detected. (La Prensa Latina)

Jordi Amaral is a freelance researcher and writer currently working as a Research Analyst at Hxagon and as an independent consultant with the Latin America and the Caribbean Initiative at the Migration Policy Institute

Arianna Kohan is a Research Analyst at Hxagon and a current M.A. student in International Relations at the Universidad Torcuato di Tella in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She previously worked as a Program Coordinator with the Americas Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). 

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