On Friday, Brazilian President Michel Temer met with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg in Oslo to promote investment in the South American country.
The meeting, which was met with protests led by anti-Temer environmental activists, came one day after the Norwegian government announced that it is cutting roughly US$60 million annually from the Amazon Fund, one of the main organizations dedicated to combating deforestation.
Demonstrators held up placards defending democracy, human rights, Indigenous rights and the protection of the Amazonian territory in Brazil. Temer's “attacks upon the rights of Indigenous peoples and the environment have reached a magnitude never seen before,” said Sonia Guajajara, one of Brazil’s most renowned Indigenous leaders who was present at one of the protests, according to Brasil247.
The decision to cut funds for the Amazon Fund was made during a meeting between Norwegian officials and Brazil's Environmental Minister Jose Sarney Filho.
Norway, the largest donor to the Amazon Fund, reexamined its financial commitment to the organization as a result of Brazil's ever-weakening environmental protection policies.
Diario do Grande ABC reported that in 2016, deforestation had reached three thousand square miles, a 29 percent increase from the previous year.
During a joint press conference, Solberg expressed “concern” over the effects of ongoing political scandals and mentioned that the time had come for Brazil to clean up its act in terms of widespread corruption. Temer was reportedly unable to contest any points made by Solberg.
A series of recent policy changes in Brazil have rolled back environmental protections and Indigenous rights amid political upheaval and an economic crisis tormenting the embattled president.
Suffering its worst recession, the Brazilian government has launched a series of spending cuts to reduce budget deficits. As part of the effort, the Indigenous affairs agency National Indian Foundation, known as FUNAI, witnessed a more than 40 percent cut in its budget.
The Foundation was established in 1967 in an effort to map Indigenous lands and to avoid a repeat of the killings of Amazonian Indigenous peoples in the 1960s.
During the political turmoil following the impeachment of former President Dilma Rousseff, the “ruralista” lobby bloc in the National Congress of Brazil, which represents the interests of agribusinesses and large landholders, has been pushing through legislation to reverse longstanding protections for the Amazon rainforest.
One of the measures introduced by lawmakers would remove conservation protection from 1.2 million hectares of the Amazon forest, an area larger than Jamaica.
Other proposed measures include relaxing the environmental licensing rules for big infrastructure projects, opening sales of farmland to foreigners and loosening rules for approving new mining projects. They are expected to be passed by Brazil's Congress in coming months.