RIO DE JANEIRO, Nov 23 (Reuters) – The United States is seeking to crack down on environmental criminals after deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, using sanctions like the Magnitsky sanctions to tackle climate change aggressively. , US sources and officials told Reuters.
The plan represents a major shift in Washington’s strategy to fight global warming, which adds to the clamor of direct sanctions in its toolkit of tax treaties, diplomatic agreements and complex, slow-moving international agreements. many countries.
Deforestation in Brazil reached a 15-year high under President Jair Bolsonaro, who rolled back environmental protections and pushed for more mining and commercial agriculture in the Amazon, a key bulwark against climate change. the weather.
Left-wing President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will take office on January 1 and has pledged to end deforestation at the COP27 climate conference in Egypt last week. In talks with US officials, Lula and his allies have emphasized his views on dealing with climate change.
However, there are still question marks about how he views the plan, which is in its early stages. Lula believes that Washington helped Brazilian prosecutors imprison him on corruption charges, and he is often angry with US law enforcement.
The Magnitsky sanctions aim to punish those accused of corruption or enabling human rights abuses. They would freeze any US assets and prevent all Americans and US companies from dealing with sanctioned individuals or entities.
The US Treasury Department, which is responsible for the Magnitsky sanctions, declined to comment. Neither Bolsonaro’s office nor Brazil’s Justice Ministry responded to requests for comment. Lula’s transition team did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The US project began in June, at the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, when the United States and Brazil announced a joint task force to combat illegal deforestation in the Amazon rainforest, a US source said. working on the project said.
Among the task force’s goals is to “prevent the exploitation of the international financial system by linking illegal activities and forest products,” according to a statement from the United States Department of State at the time.
Specifically, a separate US official with knowledge of the project told Reuters, Washington wants to punish people who cut down large-scale forests, and perpetrators of other environmental crimes such as illegal gold mining. .
US officials in Brazil and the United States have begun the process of identifying and investigating specific targets, the source said, with possible sanctions ranging from visa restrictions to sanctions. Global Magnitsky.
It is unclear when the United States may impose sanctions, as the investigation could take some time.
Targeting environmental criminals with Global Magnitsky sanctions is rare but not unprecedented.
In 2019, the Treasury singled out Try Pheap, a Cambodian dictator and ruling party official, for building a large illegal logging organization in collaboration with the authorities.
The Treasury Department is working on the plan with the State Department’s Office of Economic and Trade Affairs and the Office of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, the source said.
During a visit to Brazil in August, Brian Nelson, the Treasury Department’s under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said that the June Summit of the Americas resulted in subsequent discussions with Brazil on “the address the challenge we all face in terms of climate change.”
“Certainly, environmental crimes are an important aspect of that in our view,” Nelson said in a press conference, referring to “the destruction of the Amazon forest.”
During his August visit, Nelson also met with civil society organizations in Sao Paulo to discuss environmental crime “and its relationship with organized crime and public corruption,” according to a statement from A treasure of that time.
Reporting by Gabriel Stargardter and Brad Haynes; Edited by Christian Plumb and Lisa Shumaker
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