Brazil’s Rousseff vetoes key clauses of land law
BRASILIA, (Reuters) – Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff yesterday vetoed divisive elements of a new law that relaxes the forest cover farmers must preserve on their land, taking a stand against the agricultural lobby that pushed a more lenient version through Congress.
The so-called forest code pits the powerful farming lobby, which wants to ensure that farmers can plant as they see fit on their land, against environmentalists and much of Brazilian society who want landowners who cleared vast swathes of forest illegally to be held accountable. In all, Rousseff vetoed 12 articles in the law, one of the most controversial pieces of legislation to pass Brazil’s Congress in recent years.
Rousseff must now send the bill back to Congress, which could override her vetoes with an absolute majority, meaning over 50 percent of the membership.
Agriculture is a major source of both employment and economic growth, with the country a major producer and exporter of soybeans, sugar, coffee, cotton, oranges and ethanol made from sugarcane.
Green campaigners oppose making changes to the existing land use laws, arguing a new law will let landowners off the hook after clearing vast swathes of land illegally over decades, including in the ecologically rich Amazon rainforest.
With the Rio+20 summit by the United Nations on sustainable development in Rio de Janeiro just weeks away, presidency sources say Rousseff has been burning the midnight oil to weed out the most objectionable parts of the bill and avoid a perception that the government was offering an amnesty those responsible for illegal forest felling.
On Friday, Rousseff effectively overruled the law that legislators close to the farming sector pushed through the lower house of Congress, restoring specific requirements for how much forest must be maintained on the banks of larger rivers to prevent soil erosion and chemical runoff into waterways.
The government plans to provide full details of the vetoes on Monday, Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira and Agriculture Minister Mendes Ribeiro said at a news conference in Brasilia.