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Lula courts Brazil’s farmers ahead of vote, angering environmentalists

Lula courts Brazil’s farmers ahead of vote, angering environmentalists

Lula courts Brazil’s farmers ahead of vote, angering environmentalists

Lula courts Brazil’s farmers ahead of vote, angering environmentalists (credits:goggle)

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  • Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is luring supporters from Brazil’s powerful agricultural sector to his presidential campaign.
  • Right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro has made a strong connection with rural interests, vowing to expand Brazil’s farming frontier deeper into the Amazon rainforest.

BRASILIA, 21 JULY – Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is luring supporters from Brazil’s powerful agricultural sector to his presidential campaign, hoping to splinter his opponent’s base in a move that could irritate his own environmentalist supporters.

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Agribusiness made significant progress under Lula’s administration from 2003 to 2010, but right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro has made a strong connection with rural interests, vowing to expand Brazil’s farming frontier deeper into the Amazon rainforest.

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Lula, on the other hand, has promised “net zero deforestation” in Brazil within four years, aligning his rhetoric with greener thinking among Latin America’s leftists.

Nonetheless, Lula raised eyebrows last week in Brasilia by strengthening ties with traditional farming interests, endorsing a Senate run by lawmaker Neri Geller, vice-president of the congressional farm caucus, and meeting with Senator Carlos Favaro, who also has strong agribusiness ties.

Geller, who served as farm minister under Lula’s chosen successor Dilma Rousseff, told Reuters that he was seeing more farm industry allies come out in support of him, including Brazil’s “Soy King” Blairo Maggi, another ex-farm minister who has been chastised for being an apologist for deforestation.

Despite Lula’s double-digit lead over Bolsonaro ahead of the October election, many agribusiness titans are wary of speaking with the leftist leader. Several farm industry leaders declined to comment on their conversations with the Lula campaign when contacted

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Following their meeting with Lula, Geller and Favaro faced criticism from a farm lobby group in their home state of Mato Grosso, emphasising the risks of defying Bolsonaro in farm country.

The meetings drew criticism from the left as well. Greens oppose Geller’s attempt to loosen environmental licencing and Favaro’s bill to buy time for farmers and ranchers accused of invading public lands.

Marina Silva, Lula’s former Environment Minister, told the newspaper Folha de S.Paulo that coalitions with lawmakers like Geller and Favaro would “maintain the country’s status as an environmental pariah.”

Izabella Teixeira, a former environment minister who helped put together Lula’s government programme, took a more pragmatic approach.

“First and foremost, you must win the election, and these are the arrangements that make the election possible,” she told Reuters. “Another thing after the election will be politics.”

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