Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has decided to veto parts of a new forestry law that environmentalists say would lead to a wave of deforestation in the Amazon, a senior official said Friday.
"The president of the Republic decided in favor of carrying out diverse vetoes and modifications to the draft law that deals with the forestry code," government lawyer Luis Inacio Adams, said at a news conference.
The overhaul of the 1965 forestry law approved by Congress a month ago had been seen as a victory for a powerful agri-business lobby after years of battling with environmentalists, but it is embarrassing for Brazil less than a month before it hosts the Rio+20 summit on sustainable development.
Environment Minister, Izabella Teixeira, said that in vetoing parts of the bill the government was seeking to ensure that there is no reduction in those areas of the Amazon and other sensitive ecosystems that are protected.
She said the government also acted to prevent amnesties for those who had illegally cleared areas in the past, to preserve small landowners, and hold producers responsible for protecting the environment.
The 12 line item vetoes and 31 modifications to the bill approved by Rousseff were to be published Monday as a special executive measure that enters into effect immediately, although it will have to be ratified later by the Congress.
The new law has provoked fierce clashes between environmentalists and supporters of farmers and ranchers over how to regulate the country's vast but vulnerable wilderness.
The bill approved by Congress a month ago defines what part of the forest that landowners in the Amazon and other large ecosystems are responsible for protecting.
It shows the two faces of Brazil: one the one hand, a giant agricultural producer and exporter with nearly 28 percent of its territory under cultivation, and on the other an environmental powerhouse with forests covering 60 percent of its surface.
The pace of deforestation in Brazil has declined from 27,000 square kilometers (10,425 square miles) a year in 2004 to a little over 6,000 square kilometers (2,300 square miles) in 2011.