Brazil’s attempts to modernize its forestry code with protection for river banks and set-aside areas are dying in the quicksand of Brasilia’s messy compromise politics. Pressure from the powerful ruralistas, those supporting the expansion of Brazil’s agribusiness, have already watered down the code so far that it was effectively meaningless. The latest political ruse is bailing out farmers who commit environmental crimes.
Sensing an opportunity to wring out more concessions from the government, the ruralistas are holding up passage of World Cup legislation (covering vital questions such as ‘can alcohol be sold at the stadia?’ and ‘what kind of discounts can we offer students and pensioners?’). This delaying tactic is acutely embarrassing to Dilma Rousseff as Brazil is already involved in an ugly spat with FIFA over its monumentally slow progress in building out infrastructure, especially transport, associated with the games and been on the end of a tongue-lashing from Jerome Valcker, who told Brazil that it needed ‘a kick up the backside’.
The government now looks set to cut a favourable deal to the ruralistas to win support for the Cup laws by extending suspension of laws that impose sanctions and penalties for environmental crimes. That would further sacrifice years of work on the already emasculated code. Does Brazil really give much of a monkey’s about its forests?