Brazil's Lula hits out at Amazon critics
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva hit out at foreign critics of his stewardship of the environment on Monday, saying the world needed to understand that the Amazon belonged to Brazilians.
He told a forum in Rio de Janeiro it was "amusing" that countries who were among the world's worst polluters wanted to talk about preserving the rain forest.
"The world needs to understand that the Amazon has an owner, and that is the Brazilian people," Lula said.
"They are rubber tappers, fishermen and us who are Brazilian."
Foreign environmental groups expressed concern this month when Lula's environment minister, Marina Silva, who was seen as a guardian of the Amazon, stepped down citing inability to carry out her agenda.
Silva had been increasingly isolated in her opposition to big infrastructure projects such as planned hydroelectric plants in the Amazon and had repeatedly clashed with big agricultural interests.
The Amazon has become an international issue because its destruction, much of it by farmers as Brazil's agriculture exports boom, is a major contributor to global warming.
Lula said Brazil was doing its part to reduce global warming as the world's largest exporter of the renewable fuel ethanol.
"We are offering the world non-polluting fuel ... Let's convince the world that ethanol can help reduce pollution, ease the energy crisis and reduce inflation," he said.
Critics have questioned the environmental credentials of ethanol, saying its production is pushing cattle ranchers and farmers deeper into the Amazon.
(Reporting by Rodrigo Viga Gaier; Writing by Stuart Grudgings; Editing by Eric Walsh)