A federal police operation to confiscate illegal timber for export to eight European countries was used by President Jair Bolsonaro (no party) to threaten the disclosure of a list of nations that the irregularly extracted material from the Buy Amazon.
The operation of PF Archimedes resulted in the seizure of 120 containers containing 2,400 m³ of illegally harvested timber that were sold to importers in Germany, Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and the United Kingdom.
The operation started in 2017 and has taken new steps in the following years.
Without quoting the operation or the names of the countries, Bolsonaro complained on Tuesday (17) about “unjustified attacks” on the government’s environmental policies and promised to make public the countries that are recipients of illegal timber.
The threat is another response from the president to criticism he has received in the face of increasing deforestation in the Amazon and the wave of fires in the region and the Pantanal.
“Our federal police have developed a method to determine the location of the source of the confiscated wood. Not only arrested, but most importantly: also exported. In the coming days we will uncover countries that have illegally imported timber from the Amazon, ”the president said during the virtual summit of BRICS (group of countries from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).
“Some of these countries are my government’s toughest critics of this Amazon region,” he said.
“In the next few days we will announce the names of the countries that are importing this illegal timber from us, through the vastness of the Amazon region. Because then we will show that these countries, some of which criticize us a lot, have some responsibility in this matter, ”he said.
The wood tracing technology cited by Bolsonaro is used by the Superintendent of the Amazon Federal Police. The aim is to analyze the hydrogen, carbon and sulfur molecules to identify the source of the confiscated natural material.
Both the details of the Arquimedes operation and the technology used in the PF laboratory in Amazon were presented to ambassadors invited by Vice President Hamilton Mourão on a trip to the Amazon. The script was developed to improve Brazil’s image abroad.
However, in the presentation to the ambassadors, countries were mentioned where there are recipients of illegal timber who are asking their governments to cooperate in combating this practice.
Bolsonaro’s speech goes in the other direction and should heighten environmental tensions with these countries, emphasized diplomats heard by Folha.
Despite the president’s declaration, Ibama has facilitated the export of Brazilian timber to other countries even this year.
The President of the Institute, Eduardo Fortunato Bim, published a resolution in February in which he waived the need for special authorization from the Agency for other countries to import the material extracted in Brazil.
After the new standard was published, NGOs such as Greenpeace and ISA (Instituto Socioambiental) went to court to review the rule. The organizations claim that Ibama responded to a request from the timber companies, who even thanked the agency’s president for the measure.
The NGOs also argue that Fortunato’s decision contradicted the institute’s technical opinion, as detailed in the lawsuit.
According to the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Brazil exported the equivalent of 5.567 billion kilos of wood worth 2.071 billion US dollars to 154 countries in 2020.
The organizations working on the issue in Brazil do not have an estimate of the total number of illegally harvested woods from the Amazon. However, there are government cuts.
For example, a study by Imazon (Institute for People and Environment of the Amazon) published in April this year shows that of the 38,000 hectares of Amazon rainforest in Pará that were explored between August 2017 and July 2018, only 30% had a permit. That is, 70% of the total was illegally extracted.
Data from the Instituto Centro Vida shows that between August 2016 and July 2017, more than 60,000 hectares of forest were illegally used in Mato Grosso, which is 39% of the total area extracted by logging companies.
European countries cited the biggest shocks with the Bolsonaro government in the face of increasing deforestation in the Amazon. In 2019, on the eve of the G7 meeting, French President Emmanuel Macron described the wave of fire in the Amazon region as an “international crisis”.
Speaking French was seen in Brasília as an encroachment on national sovereignty. Macron and Bolsonaro exchanged attacks.
Germany, in turn, is one of the main donors of the Amazonas Fund, a mechanism for financing nature conservation projects in the region. After the Bolsonaro government approved changes in the management of the fund, both Germany and Norway – another donor – suspended contributions.
Bolsonaro’s speech was viewed as problematic by diplomats heard from Folha.
Publishing a list accusing foreign governments of buying illegal timber would force these countries to react publicly, which would increase tensions. This would also constitute an obstacle to trying to win international cooperation to reduce deforestation rates.
The BRICS summit was practically due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
There was an error in the audio system and in the translation from Portuguese to English during the President’s statements. When the signal was restored, Bolsonaro joked, “It was just a coincidence, when I was talking about the Amazon, about wood, the signal fell. Certainly just a coincidence ”.