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Cablegate: Ambassador Meets with Environment Minister and Engages On

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DE RUEHBR #0967 1991450
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O 171450Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY BRASILIA
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TAGS: SENV TNGD TRGY KSCA EAGR BR
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR MEETS WITH ENVIRONMENT MINISTER AND ENGAGES ON
TFCA DEAL

1. (U) Summary: On Wednesday, July 2, Ambassador Sobel met with new
Minister of Environment, Carlos Minc. During a positive
conversation that covered issues ranging from the development of
ecotourism in the state of Amazonas to the impending visit to Brazil
by USAID Administrator Fore, Ambassador Sobel also sought
reaffirmation of the Ministry of Environment's support of a debt for
nature swap with the USG under the Tropical Forest Conservation Act
(TFCA). Minc said that his Ministry fully supports such an
agreement and that he would approach Itamaraty and other
institutions to learn more about the status of the GoB's position
and to push for resolution as soon as possible. End summary.

2. (U) A courtesy call with new Environment Minister, Carlos Minc,
quickly turned in an action oriented meeting. Ambassador Sobel
opened the meeting by detailing his recent trip to Amazonas and
meeting with Amazonas Governor, Eduardo Braga, where they discussed
possible US partnership in developing the ecotourism sector there.
Minc said that the GoB 'wants more ecotourism in Brazil' and has
similar ideas for the development of this sector in the Amazon. He
said that the GoB would welcome US cooperation and support in this
regard. Ambassador Sobel also invited Minc to visit US National
Parks as his predecessor Marina Silva did. Minc accepted.

3. (U) With regard to the TFCA debt for nature swap currently under
negotiation between the USG and Brazil, Ambassador Sobel explained
that the original USD 30 million in debt forgiveness has been
reduced to USD 20 million. He went on to explain that Brazil must
act quickly to accept the deal as the funds will likely not be
available after September 30. Minc said that Brazil 'has the need
and wants the TFCA deal to go through.' Ambassador Sobel assured
Minc that Itamaraty has told him they would like to see an agreement
reached, but that they need more time to discuss internally. Minc
responded that he would personally engage on the issue with
Itamaraty and other ministries/agencies so that 'we [GoB] don't let
this important opportunity pass.' He promised to update the Embassy
as soon as possible on his efforts.

4. (U) Minc went on to explain that TFCA funding could be used,
inter alia, to fund programs to combat rising deforestation rates
and encourage sustainable management, especially in the state of
Mato Grosso. Even so, his Ministry is taking action early on in his
tenure to combat deforestation and to rein in illegal logging and
ranching in protected areas. For example, Minc highlighted that in
a recent crackdown on illegal logging, the Brazilian government
seized thousands of cattle grazing on public land in the Amazon rain
forest. In May, Brazil's environmental protection agency seized
several tons of grain, mostly soy and corn, grown on illegally
deforested lands. In June, sixty steel companies across Brazil (not
all in the Amazon) were charged nearly USD$250 million in fines for
using illegally harvested forest charcoal. The Ministry of
Environment also recently entered into an agreement with timber
companies to extract and export only from non-protected areas.

5. (U) COMMENT: Lula has described Minc as an environmentalist who
brings solutions instead of problems. Minc emulated this reputation
during the meeting with Ambassador Sobel. In addition to
highlighting the many actions that his Ministry has undertaken to
address some of the environmental challenges that Brazil faces, his
willingness to become personally engaged in issues such as TFCA
(where the Ministry of Environment is not the lead on technical
negotiations) and ecotourism illustrated his openness to cooperation
with the USG. Perhaps more importantly, however, it also exhibited
his confidence in his ability to influence the TFCA negotiations,
likely due to his close relationship with Casa Civil. While it
remains to be seen the level of influence he may wield overseeing
one of the more traditionally weak ministries in the GOB, and in
contrast to his predecessor, his personal relationships within the
higher echelon of the GoB may bode well for future USG cooperation
in this and other areas. END COMMENT.

KUBISKE

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