Brazil to rein in foreign groups in Amazon

Brazil's military will regulate environmental, religious and other foreign groups working in the Amazon region under a law being drafted to assert sovereignty over the often lawless rainforest, the defense minister said on Thursday.

Brazil to rein in foreign groups in Amazon

"There is this concept that the Amazon is some free place for anyone, but the Amazon is sovereign Brazilian territory," Defense Minister Nelson Jobim said at a media briefing.

Many international non-govermental organizations, such as the environmental group Greenpeace, have offices in the Amazon region and campaign to halt the destruction of the rainforest by loggers and agricultural interests.

Human rights groups work to help Indians and peasants in an vast area where violent land seizures are common.

The 7 million sq km (1.7 billion acre) Amazon Basin is home to an estimated one-third of all species on Earth. But Brazil's booming economy, soy farming and cattle ranching has put pressure on land prices and fueled deforestation.

Justice Minister Tarso Genro said on Wednesday that many NGOs were involved in bio-piracy and were trying to influence Indian culture to expropriate land.

The justice and defense ministries plan to send a new Foreigners Bill to Congress in June to curb NGOs from serving as fronts for illegal activities in the Amazon.

It would require foreign individuals and groups to get permission from the Justice Ministry and register with the regional military command.

If the foreigners were working without approval or in an illegal way, the Justice Ministry could revoke visas, deport and fine individuals and groups between 5,000 and 100,000 reais ($3,000 and $60,000).

Greenpeace was not immediately available to comment on the proposed law.

The Brazilian government is sensitive to outside criticism of its policy in the Amazon, where there is little law enforcement to stop deforestation, land grab schemes and the exploitation of resources.

The armed forces have also been preoccupied by hypothetical scenarios of an invasion and occupation of the Amazon by a stronger foreign power.

"We are not aware of any pending threat. We have no border disputes with our neighbors," Jobim said. "But why wait until after something happens? We need to be prepared to protect our resources."

Reuters

Last Mod: 25 Nisan 2008, 12:37
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