Brazilian environmental agents have launched anti-deforestation raids in search of criminals under President Lula de Silva. Lula had pledged to end the surging destruction inherited from his predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro. The raids, which were accompanied by federal armed police, targeted illegal logging sites in the states of Para, Roraina, and Acry. The raids marked the first action taken by the Brazilian environmental agency since Lula took power this month.
Deep in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, agents entered an illegal logging site, the Cachuera Seca indigenous reserve, where deforestation is strictly prohibited. However, illegal loggers and ranchers have cleared forest and destroyed unique flora, including the famous Brazilian Ipe or walnut tree. The agency’s David Belshoff stated, “we are conducting an operation on this Timber Company, we had indications of irregularities and when we got here we confirmed that it was totally irregular development.”
Most of the site appeared abandoned, which the agent said was down to Lula’s pledge to enforce the law. Under Bolsonaro’s leadership, an area larger than Denmark was deforested, a 60% increase from the prior four years. Bolsonaro’s government targeted the Brazilian environmental agency, gutting staff and funding and criticizing the fines it issued to farmers and miners. The agency was sidelined, despite its long experience, as Bolsonaro charged the military and later the Justice Ministry with tackling deforestation.
Lula vowed to put the agency back in charge with beefed-up funding and personnel. He stated, “we need stricter laws and more Personnel to fight them because we have often put pressure on a deforestation front and they quickly move to another location so we need the logistics for the team to fight them anywhere.” Lula slashed Amazon deforestation by 72% during his last time in office from 2003 to 2010. He was sworn in again on January 1st, so additional money and staff have yet to reach the frontline enforcers.
It remains to be seen if Lula’s efforts will be successful in curbing deforestation in Brazil. However, his previous record of reducing deforestation during his time in office is encouraging, and the recent raids mark a promising start in his efforts to combat the destruction of the Amazon rainforest.