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Greenpeace blocks Brazil port over Amazon law
by Staff Writers
Sao Paulo (AFP) May 26, 2012


Greenpeace temporarily blocked a freighter from being loaded at a northern Brazilian port Saturday in protest over a partial presidential veto of a land-use bill seen as harming the Amazon.

The environmental group said on its website that activists ferried by its Rainbow Warrior vessel occupied a giant pile of pig iron on the dock while another team scaled two cranes to stop them from loading the raw material of iron and steel onto the US-bound Clipper Hope.

The activists then unfurled banners proclaiming "Amazon Crime" and "Dilma's dirty secret," in protest at President Dilma Rousseff's partial veto Friday of 12 controversial articles of the new code regulating the use of land on rural properties.

"The Amazon turns to Charcoal, Brazil Stop the Chainsaw," said a huge banner tied to a crane by the activists.

Pig iron requires large amounts of charcoal to be produced and this often comes from rainforest trees logged from indigenous lands.

But they suspended the protest eight hours later after the deputy governor of Maranhao state, Washington Luiz de Oliveira, intervened and promised to facilitate talks with the pig iron industry.

A meeting was set for Monday between Greenpeace and industry representatives, Maranhao state officials, the national Bar Association and cargo shipment owner Viena.

The modified forestry policy bill, which is pending ratification from Congress, maintains a requirement to protect 80 percent of the forest in rural areas of the Amazon and 35 percent of the sertao, or arid hinterland of northeastern Brazil.

But it eases restrictions for small landowners who face difficulties in recovering illegally cleared land.

The reform of the 1965 forestry law approved by Congress a month ago had been seen as a victory for a powerful agri-business lobby after years of feuding with environmentalists alarmed at the risk of further deforestation in the Amazon.

Environmentalists who had pushed for a full veto have slammed Rousseff's move.

Greenpeace has linked the pig iron industry to slave labor and forest destruction in the Amazon.

"In the wake of Dilma's failure we are taking action and demanding action from the Brazilian government," Greenpeace said.

It called on Rousseff to "redeem herself by supporting the 80 percent of Brazilians who opposed the changes in the Forest Code."

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