Have Destroyed the Amazon? No Problem, Forests Will Pay the Bill


Human Wrongs Watch

By Jess Miller, Greenpeace* – Seven years ago, Leonardo Andrade Gomes was considered to be the single biggest forest destroyer in the Amazon. In addition to other infractions, he was found responsible for the deforestation of 12,500 hectares of Amazon forest and fined more than 18 million reais (US$8.6 million).

Amazon River in Brazil © Karla Gachet / Panos / Greenpeace. Aerial view of the Amazon River.  During its first voyage to Brazil, the new Rainbow Warrior will pass through the Amazon and down the Brazilian coast, to support a campaign for a zero deforestation law.

Amazon River in Brazil © Karla Gachet / Panos / Greenpeace. Aerial view of the Amazon River. During its first voyage to Brazil, the new Rainbow Warrior will pass through the Amazon and down the Brazilian coast, to support a campaign for a zero deforestation law.

Why is this relevant now? Because since then, the Brazilian government hasn’t been able to track him down or collect the fine. But one thing is for sure: the fines against him will be forgiven by the new Forest Code. Now, it will take very little to make this multi-million dollar debt disappear forever.

Defence?

When Gomes’ name topped the Brazilian government’s ‘forest destroyers list’, a lawyer claimed in his defence that he had not yet purchased the farm, Cachoeira Alta, and that it still belonged to Elizabeth Guimaraes when the rampant deforestation linked to the infractions and fines took place.

When approached by the federal government, Guimaraes defended herself by also claiming she didn’t own the farm at the time and presented a certificate showing she had sold it to Gomes just before the destruction.

After years of back and forth, the government decided the fine remained with Gomes, but the debt remained unpaid.

However, further investigations show in 2011, Elizabeth applied for and received a license for “Rural Activity” from the Secretary of Environment of Pará State in the name of the same farm – Cachoeira Alta. In the end, the government never resolved who owns the farm and the fines went uncollected.

Gomes then disappeared. According to the government, his CPF (government ID number) was canceled and IBAMA was unable to track him down to collect the fines issued.

This is just one example of the lack of governance and impunity that has contributed to the destruction of the Amazon. For years, those responsible for deforestation have managed to evade fines and avoid responsibility.

Brazil’s New Forest Code

Now, with Brazil’s new Forest Code, amnesty will be granted for unauthorised deforestation fines prior to 2008. In Gomes’ case, the R18 million fine would disappear and the obligation to engage in forest land recovery efforts would be absolved.

This lack of governance and the new Forest Code has made the case for a new Zero Deforestation Law in Brazil.

In March, a petition for a zero deforestation law in Brazil was launched.

Just a few months later, over 600,000 people have signed onto the citizen’s initiative.

According to Brazil’s laws, if 1.4 million people support the Zero Deforestation initiative, it could be presented to the Brazilian Congress and become law. Learn more about the Zero Deforestation Law and support Brazil’s call to end Amazon destruction!

*Source: Greenpeace. Go Original

2012 Human Wrongs Watch

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