Lula pledges to protect Amazon if he returns to power in Brazil’s election | Brazil

The leading candidate to become Brazil’s next president has pledged to launch a massive crackdown on illegal miners and loggers ravaging the Amazon following the “barbaric” murders of indigenous expert Bruno Pereira and the British journalist Dom Phillips.

Speaking to foreign journalists in São Paulo, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva paid tribute to the two men, who were shot dead in June while documenting the historic assault on indigenous lands that took place. unfolded under the current Brazilian leader, Jair Bolsonaro.

“They were victims of a massacre, of a barbarism, the kind of which should no longer happen in Brazil,” said the veteran leftist, who polls predict will win a third term in office when 156 million Brazilians will choose their next president in October.

Asked by the Guardian what concrete steps he would take as president to deal with the explosion of devastation in the Amazon and attacks on indigenous communities, Lula pledged to create a ministry for the peoples and to rebuild the environmental agency, Ibama, which critics say Bolsonaro has deliberately dismantled since taking office in 2019.

Lula also pledged to crack down on the thousands of illegal gold diggers who have invaded indigenous territories since Bolsonaro became president, whose illegal activities Phillips had extensively covered.

“We will put a complete stop to all types of illegal mining. It can’t just be done by law, it has to be almost a profession of faith,” said Lula, pledging to make the global climate crisis “a top priority” if elected.

Lula said he would strengthen Brazil’s federal police and its borders to regain control of remote areas of the Amazon such as the Javari Valley, where Pereira and Phillips were killed, from drug and drug trafficking gangs. weapons.

“If we take great care, we can prevent what happened to Dom and Bruno from happening again,” Lula told dozens of international correspondents who had gathered to hear him speak at a São Paulo hotel.

Lula, who ruled from 2003 to 2010, insisted that Brazil’s sovereignty over the Amazon region was indisputable, but signaled that his government would welcome international help in the fight to reduce deforestation.

“We don’t even need to cut down one more tree to plant soybeans. We don’t need to cut down another tree to plant corn. We don’t need to cut down a single tree to plant sugar cane or raise cattle,” Lula said.

The former president – whose government won plaudits for cutting deforestation but outraged Amazon defenders by building the Belo Monte mega-dam – was speaking as the race for power intensified before the October 2 first-round vote.

In recent weeks, fears that Bolsonaro, a far-right radical ex-army captain who openly celebrates Brazil’s 1964-1985 military dictatorship, will refuse to accept defeat have grown in recent weeks.

Earlier this month, more than a million citizens from all political backgrounds signed a high-profile manifesto warning that the country’s fledgling democracy faces a moment of “tremendous danger”. Ominously, Bolsonaro urged die-hard supporters to take to the streets “for the last time” on September 7, Brazil’s Independence Day.

However, Lula played down fears that Brazil could suffer a democratic “break” and said it was inconceivable that citizens would accept seeing their hard-fought democracy thrown away.

He predicted that Bolsonaro would have no choice but to accept defeat, just as his US ally Donald Trump was forced to do after losing to Joe Biden.

“He’s a poorly made copy of Trump,” Lula said of his right-wing rival. “Trump also tried to avoid accepting the result. They tried to storm the Capitol. But he had to back down and I’m sure that here in Brazil the election result will be accepted without any form of questioned.

Lula also played down concerns about his own safety after learning he had started wearing a bulletproof vest at rallies after a series of violent incidents. Prior to Lula’s arrival at Monday’s press conference, a federal police officer could be seen checking metal trash cans for concealed explosive devices.

“I don’t have time to think about it. I’m so obsessed with winning this election to try to fix this county… that I don’t worry about anything else,” Lula told reporters. “Of course, I take all the necessary precautions, but I don’t feel that fear that some people seem to think I feel.”

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