Latin America Forest News Updates May – July 2011

LIMA, Peru (1 August, 2011)_ We are periodically reviewing news articles on forests and climate change in Latin America and the Amazon region. The last few months have seen a wave of criticism in Brazilian media due to proposed changes to the national Forests Code; Central and South American countries announcing international cooperation initiatives to tackle deforestation; and a six-fold increase in deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon.

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Aerial view of the Amazon Rainforest, near Manaus, the capital of the Brazilian state of Amazonas. Photo by Neil Palmer/CIAT

LIMA, Peru (1 August, 2011)_ We are periodically reviewing the most relevant news articles on forests and climate change in Latin America and the Amazon region.

Latin America news digests are compiled by Gabriela Ramirez GalindoRegional Communications Officer for CIFOR’s Latin America office.

  • Brazil’s environmental agency reported defoliation of 180 hectares of tropical forests with “agent orange”, a toxic herbicide which can damage the environment, pollute groundwater and kill animals and insects. Doble Dividento and Mongabay reported that the along with the dangerous herbicide, another four tons of chemical products capable of destroying 3,000 hectares were discovered along the Trans-Amazon highway during the systematic monitoring of the forests regularly performed by the government.



  • Violence against forests activists continue, adding to a death toll of more than 1000 in 20 years according to the Guardian. One of the latest victims was Jose Luiz da Silva, an activist of the Pernanbuco State, in the northeast of the country, according to a report of the Comisión Pastoral de la Tierra (CPT) and reported by AFP, which published a list of 125 threatened activists.
  • This month, countries in the Amazon and the Central America regions announced international cooperation initiatives to tackle deforestation and climate change. In the Amazon region, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Surinam and Venezuela agreed to monitor and compare deforestation rates, reported EFE. The eight Amazon countries said that unlike the methods used to measure deforestation, the main drivers of deforestation- pressure over land use, cattle ranching, agriculture and illegal mining expansion – are common to all countries.


    • In Central America, the creation of a climate database was announced, which will help the countries in the region to evaluate risks and identify climate change adaptation activities. The database will include information about rainfall patterns and climate change adaptation over a period of 30 years, according to a Notimex report.


  • Civil societies are also doing their bit to protect forests. In Bolivia, indigenous and agrarian organizations have asked the Senate to approve a new bill called “Mother Earth Framework,” reported the agency Adital. The proposal arose from the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, which was held in April 2010 in Cochabamba, and proposed a minimum jail sentence of three years for those that harm the environment.



  • The month of July has seen a wave of criticism in Brazilian media due to proposed changes to the national Forests Code. The controversial bill to reform Brazil’s Forest Code was passed by the House of Representatives in May. Supporters of law reforms have called the code “outdated and poorly enforced”, while environmentalists criticize the new bill for weakening the actual Forest Code by granting “amnesty for illegal deforestation of up to 400 hectares per property and allowing clearing of forests along waterways and hillsides,” reported Mongabay.



  • In a country where cattle ranches account for at least 70 percent of the cleared forest in the Brazilian Amazon, it is estimated that  nearly a ton of carbon is generated per kilogram of meat. Brazil is the world’s largest producer of beef, but also an agricultural power in the production and exportation of sugar, coffee and soybeans reported the Center for International Forestry Research.



  • Peter May, a scientist working in Brazil in association with the Center for International Forestry Research, said in an interview that only “about 5 people in every 100 who are fined for environmental crimes ever pay up,” and affirmed that fines have not been a deterrent to avoid deforestation (see the article here).



  • In May, the BBC reported a six-fold increase in deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon.  Brazil’s space research institute said “satellite images show deforestation increased from 103 sq km in March and April 2010 to 593 sq km (229 sq miles) in the same period of 2011,” mainly in Mato Grosso state, the centre of soya bean farming. This month, Greenpeace documented deforestation in the Amazonas state with aerial photographs.


  • Controversial decisions by Brazil to increase the number of dams and the construction of the Atlantic to Pacific highway between Peru and Brazi have also been scrutinized by the media this month. It is hoped that the environmental challenges faced by Brazil will be become valuable lessons for other developing countries.


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