Brazil vice president defends rain forest policy, says it won't change if Biden wins in U.S.

FILE PHOTO: Brazil’s Vice President Hamilton Mourao speaks during a news conference at the Itamaraty Palace in Brasilia, Brazil July 15, 2020. REUTERS/Adriano Machado

BRASILIA (Reuters) – Vice-President Hamilton Mourao on Tuesday defended Brazil’s environmental policies, saying the country was working to protect the Amazon rain forest and adding nothing will change if Democrat Joe Biden wins the U.S. presidential election.

Biden, who has the backing of environmental groups, has criticized Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s handling of deforestation in the Amazon. A Biden administration would be expected to put the environment and human rights at the top of the bilateral agenda, complicating relations and jeopardizing trade, diplomats and analysts have told Reuters.

Destruction of the rain forest has soared under the right-wing Bolsonaro, an ally of Republican U.S. President Donald Trump who plans to develop the Amazon saying this will reduce poverty. Environmental advocates say his policies exacerbate climate change and embolden illegal loggers, miners and ranchers.

Mourao said Brazil is doing its best to look after the forest and will continue doing so whoever is in the White House.

“We have put out more than 7,500 forest fires,” he told reporters. “I would like to show better results, we have not managed yet, but we will persist.”

Mourao acknowledged that there would be “some changes” in U.S. policy if Biden wins, but no radical change on the Brazilian end. He joked that he does not expect that “the U.S. Army 18th Airborne Corps will land in the Amazon and everything will change.”

Mourao said much of the criticism of Brazil is due to a lack of knowledge about the Amazon. He said he will take a group of mainly European diplomats on a three-day visit to the Amazon starting on Wednesday to show them what Brazil is doing to preserve the forest, hoping to boost Brazil’s international reputation.

The diplomats will be flown over the Amazon jungle, visit a zoo run by the army, a police lab for fighting environmental crimes and the meeting of the waters of the Amazon and Rio Negro rivers, the region’s main tourist attraction.

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