Amazon could be forbidden to most foreigners

Sixty per cent of Brazil could soon be off-limits to foreigners who don't have special permission to visit the world's largest tropical wilderness. Those caught in the Amazon without a permit granted by the Military and Justice Ministry could face a fine of US$60,000 (£30,000).

According to the national justice secretary, Romeu Tuma, the aim is to prevent both foreign "meddling" and illegal activity. It would cover all activities in the area Brazil considers the "legal Amazon" – including nature tours, business trips or visits to any cities across two million square miles. "We want to establish the Amazon as ours," Mr Tuma said. "We want the world to visit the region. But we want them to tell us when they're coming and what they're going to do."

Brazil already requires government permission for non-Indians entering indigenous territories. The new law would extend similar restrictions to foreigners throughout the Amazon region and reflects suspicions among conservative politicians and the military that foreign NGOs working to help Indians and save the rainforest are trying to wrest the Amazon's riches away from Brazil. Scientists and tour companies believe it will severely restrict their activities.

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