Brazil Threatens to Expel NGOs and Foreigners from the Amazon

Brazilian Indians The Brazilian government is drafting a law asserting sovereignty over the often lawless Amazon region. The Lula administration wants greater control over environmental, human rights and religious groups, most of them foreign, who live and work in the area.

These groups often work with indigenous groups in the Amazon and say their main concern is to help indigenous people to secure and protect their rights. Environmentalists on the other have long been decrying deforestation of the region be it for farming or cattle raising.

Brazilian officials and the Armed Forces have often voiced concern that the foreigners are a front for efforts to take control of the Amazon land.

The Brazilian minister of Justice, Tarso Genro, has come in defense of the bill saying that the new legislation "will separate chaff from wheat. This is a way to back the true NGOs and at the same time protect the country's sovereignty. We need to have special rules to control the entry of NGOs in the Amazon, especially the foreign ones but not only the foreign ones."

According to the prestigious daily "O Estado de S. Paulo," the Lula administration in tightening its siege around the NGOs wishes to fight biopiracy, as well as international influence over the Brazilian Indians and the sale of land inside the Amazon jungle.

And Genro went on: "We actually wish to strengthen and to support NGOs being very rigorous with them and, therefore, fortifying those that are authentic. But at the same time denying them the right to use property of the State, territory of the Union, and environmental spaces for purposes that do not belong to our national project or the wishes of the Brazilian people."

The minister told reporters that the Brazilian government has been receiving praise for fighting biopiracy. "We will carry on and intensify this work. This makes sense not only to the nation but also is related to another question: when the rule of law is not applied against this kind of irregularity, it gradually starts to lose its legitimacy."

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