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Brazil Government Declares 10 Year Moratorium on Environmental Law Enforcement

Subject:  Brazil President: Open Season on Eco-Crimes
To:  Activists and environmentalists worldwide

From: Steve Schwartzman, Environmental Defense Fund
Tel.: 202 387 3500
email: steve_schwartzman@edf.org August 13, 1998

With a stroke of the pen, Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso reversed Brazil's greatest environmental advance in the 1990's, the Environmental Crimes Act (Lei 9.605 de 12 de fevereiro de 1998), declaring a 10 year moratorium on environmental law enforcement.

Executive Order (Medida Provisoria) 1.170, signed August 7, 1998, establishes that companies that violate environmental legislation can sign a letter of commitment with an environmental agency, promising to bring their operations into compliance and be exempted from fines or other penalties for up to 5 years, renewable for another 5 years. Only six months after the Congress passed the Environmental Crimes Act, giving Brazil's environmental agency, IBAMA, statutory authority to enforce environmental law for the first time since 1989, the federal government has given environmental lawbreakers a ten year holiday. The legislation with which business has to comply has largely been in force since the 1970s.

The opposition Worker's Party (PT) and the Green Party (PV), on August 12, brought suit in the Supreme Court, charging that the order is unconstitutional. They argue that the order in essence overturns the Environmental Crimes Act, arbitrarily violating the separation of powers established in the Constitution.

Executive order 1.710 retroactively allows lawbreakers in business by March 30th to escape punishment by signing an agreement with the environmental agency by December 31st . This means that any company penalized under the Environmental Crimes Act (which came into force 90 days after its publication) can now be exempted for another 10 years.

Long-term observers of Brazilian politics note that, with companies responsible for some 20% of Brazil's GDP operating without environmental licenses, and 4,000 fines levied in Sao Paulo state alone since the passage of the Environmental Crimes Act, the order could represent a campaign fund raising bonanza for President Cardoso. Cardoso is running for re-election in the October 3rd election.

Please fax or email President Ferando Henrique Cardoso urgently, requesting that he revoke Executive Order 1.710 immediately.

Fax: 011-55-61-226-7566
Email - pr@planalto.gov.br

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