Brazil: ‘Gringos’ Should Pay to Save Amazon

MSNBC, November 27, 2009

Brazil’s president said that “gringos” should pay Amazon nations to prevent deforestation, insisting rich Western nations have caused much more past environmental destruction than the loggers and farmers who cut and burn trees in the world’s largest tropical rain forest.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva made the comments Thursday just before an Amazon summit in which delegates signed a declaration calling for financial help from the industrial world to halt the deforestation that causes global warming.

“I don’t want any gringo asking us to let an Amazon resident die of hunger under a tree,” Silva said. “We want to preserve, but they will have to pay the price for this preservation because we never destroyed our forest like they mowed theirs down a century ago.”

In Brazil, the word “gringo” does not only mean American, but generally refers to anyone from the northern hemisphere.

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Home to 30 million people

Despite the lackluster summit showing, Silva aides said it was important to drive home a message that the Amazon is home to 30 million people, most of whom depend on the forest’s natural riches to eke out a living. About 25 million live in Brazil’s portion, which has about 60 percent of the Amazon, an area larger than Western Europe.

“In Europe everyone has opinions about the Amazon, and there are people who think the Amazon is a zoo where you have to pay to enter,” said Marco Aurelio Garcia, Silva’s top foreign policy adviser. “They don’t know there are 30 million who work there.”

Brazil has managed to reduce Amazon destruction to about 7,000 square kilometers (2,702 square miles) a year, the lowest level in decades. But that is still larger than the U.S. state of Delaware.

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