President is torn between preservation and growth

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The Independent Online

The Brazilian President, Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva, is caught between a desire to preserve the rainforest and pressure to ensure economic growth after years of depression.

The Brazilian President, Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva, is caught between a desire to preserve the rainforest and pressure to ensure economic growth after years of depression.

During the 2002 election he championed environmental protection, as well as promising to provide land for 400,000 landless peasants. Despite the devastating recession he inherited, he was also critical of taking international loans from groups such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

But analysts say he has had to confront the political reality of bringing Brazil out of recession. As a result, instead of acting convincingly to protect the rainforest he, at least tacitly, encouraged loggers and ranchers to continue their development.

Shortly after his election the President said: "[The Amazon] can't be treated like it was something from another world, untouchable, in which the people don't have the right to benefit."

At one level Lula, as he is known, has seen success. He introduced a tight fiscal policy last year and the country's economy grew by 5.2 per cent. But its growth is inextricably linked to the devastation of the forest.

Logging, minerals, agriculture and ranching are the driving forces of the growth. Agriculture has been termed the economy's "green anchor". And Brazil overtook the US last year as the world's biggest producer of beef.

Everton Vargas, Brazil's Foreign Minister, recently told The Independent: "Promoting preservation when at the same time promoting economic growth and better social conditions ... is a very complex ... challenge."

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