Brazil Minister Accuses Groups of Exploiting Amazon

Brazil minister accuses groups of exploiting Amazon
Thu May 15, 2008 5:25pm EDT 

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – International concerns expressed after Brazil’s environment minister quit this week show that some groups are fronts for exploiting the Amazon’s resources, the country’s justice minister said on Thursday.

“There are parts of the international community that defend the Amazon as if it was not Brazilian but a territory of humanity,” Tarso Genro told reporters in Rio de Janeiro.

“This is a front for economic interests in the Amazon as a global reserve for big multinationals and for other countries to have control over Brazil’s territory,” he said.

Groups such as Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace voiced concern over the direction of Brazil’s environment policy this week after staunch Amazon defender and conservationist Marina Silva quit citing difficulty pushing through her agenda.

Brazil has appeared increasingly concerned over foreign influence in the vast Amazon rain forest, which has porous borders with several South American neighbors and is home to a large number of environmental and other groups.

Cabinet ministers last month said they were considering the scenario of a large-scale foreign invasion of the Amazon as part of defense plans. Brazil’s military is pushing a bill that would require foreign groups in the Amazon to have permits.

Genro also announced the setting up of a 500-strong rapid-reaction police force that could intervene in conflicts such as recent violent clashes between Indians and farmers in northern Roraima state.

“The objective of this battalion is to respond immediately to emergency situations and environmental questions,” he said.

(Reporting by Rodrigo Viga Gaier; writing by Stuart Grudgings; editing by David Wiessler)

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