Germany resumes payments to Brazil’s Amazon Fund to protect environment, indigenous peoples

By February 2, 2023

São Paulo, Brazil – The German government confirmed it will resume payments to the Amazon Fund, financial aid from European countries to Brazil to protect the Amazon rainforest and combat deforestation. According to Brazil’s government, the first payment of about R$ 193 million (USD $38 million) will go towards alleviating the health crisis of the Yanomami indigenous people.

Germany and Norway suspended payments from the Amazon Fund in 2019, the first year of former President Jair Bolsonaro’s government, due to the lack of public policies to protect the Amazon. Since the election of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in October 2022, both countries have shown their intention to resume financial aid.

The first payment from the German government was made on Monday and is part of a package of R$ 1.1 billion (USD $220 million). The announcement was made jointly by Brazil’s Minister of the Environment Marina Silva and the Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany, Svenja Schulze.

Ministers Marina Silva, from Brazil, and Svenja Schulze, from Germany. Image courtesy of José Cruz/Agência Brasil

Silva said that the first payment will be used to help the Yanomami people, who are suffering a serious health crisis. In the region, where 30,500 indigenous people live across 370 villages, teams from the Ministry of Health found severely malnourished children and elderly people, in addition to many cases of malaria, pneumonia, diarrhea and other illnesses. 

Read more: Brazil declares health emergency in Yanomami indigenous territory, 570 children have died in past four years

Because of the seriousness of the situation, the government declared a health emergency. According to the recently created Ministry of Indigenous Affairs, at least 570 indigenous children under five years of age have died from malnutrition and other preventable causes in the Yanomami region in the last four years, under then-President Bolsonaro.

For this reason, the government decided to use resources from the Amazon Fund to protect the Yanomami indigenous people. 

“The resources will be used in emergency actions which involve the issue of health, the treatment of hunger, which is plaguing the communities, and for operations to combat criminal mining,” said Minister Silva.

Meeting between Lula and the German Chancellor 

On the same day that the Ministers of Brazil and Germany settled the Amazon Fund payments, President Lula met with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Brasília. At the end of the meeting, Scholz highlighted the resumption of dialogue between Brazil and the international community.

Lula met with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Image courtesy of Ricardo Stuckert

“We are very happy that Brazil is back on the world stage and as a leader in Latin America. You were missed,” he said. Scholz also highlighted the desire to collaborate with Brazil in the area of ​​environment and climate change, including the protection of the Amazon, expansion of renewable energies and fair economic transformations.

President Lula said that the meeting with Scholz marked the resumption of cooperation between Brazil and Germany, “with the commitment to act in defense of the environment and global development.” 

The two leaders are due to meet again in September, in Germany.

Read more: After Lula’s election, environmental supporters re-engage with Brazil

Combating illegal mining

After discovering the crisis impacting the Yanomami people, Lula made the fight against illegal mining in the region one of the government’s top priorities, especially because these types of crimes reportedly contributed to the worsening health situation of the community.

According to the government, at least 20,000 illegal miners have invaded the Yanomami land in recent years. Mercury used by illegal miners is flushed into nearby rivers, poisoning the water the indigenous communities use to drink and fish.

Indigenous children were found malnourished and with many diseases. Image courtesy of Condisi

Lula said this Monday that the government will expel all illegal miners from Yanomami land. According to him, a decree was signed to mobilize federal forces in a clearance mission. But the president did not set a deadline for the total withdrawal of the invaders.

“We are going to take all measures to put an end to illegal mining. Brazil will once again be a serious and respected country, which respects the Constitution, the laws and, above all, human rights,” said the president.

Investigation into potential genocide

On Monday, the Supreme Court ordered an investigation into alleged genocide and other crimes against the Yanomami people by the previous government. The investigation will be carried out by the Federal Police. 

The court also ordered that the federal government act to expel all illegal miners from the region, starting with the areas where the indigenous people are facing more dire health threats.

In the decision, Judge Luís Roberto Barroso pointed out signs of absolute insecurity of indigenous peoples, “as well as the occurrence of action or omission, partial or total, by federal authorities, aggravating the situation.”