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Brazilian leader Michel Temer vetoes opening up Amazon

Brazilian President Michel Temer has vetoed legislation that would have reduced the size of his country's protected environmental reserves, most of them in the Amazon region.

Mr Temer tweeted the news of his vetoes in exchanges with supermodel Gisele Bundchen and the World Wildlife Foundation.

The model had earlier tweeted, imploring him to "protect mother earth" and kill the bills, which were passed by congress last month.

They would have converted around 1.4 million acres of protected land into areas open to logging, mining and agricultural use.

But the apparent victory for environmental groups may be short-lived as Brazil's environment minister is working on similar legislation that is being criticised by environmental groups.

In a video posted on Sunday on social media, environment minister Jose Sarney Filho announced plans to create a new bill that would downgrade the level of protection of 1.1 million acres of the Amazon rainforest.

The measure is designed to legalise incursions by farmers and ranchers into protected areas in the state of Para.

"We want to allow people who have been there for a long time to continue growing and developing their work," he said in the video.

The announcement comes at a time when the Amazon and Atlantic rainforests are being cut at the fastest rate in nearly a decade.

Last year, deforestation of the Amazon jumped 29% over the previous year, according to the government's satellite monitoring, the highest rate since 2008.

For environmental groups, the new bill would increase incentives for illegal logging just like the old bills.

Until Monday, Mr Temer had agreed to back a series of measures promoted by congress's so-called "rural caucus" - a group of legislators representing rural landowners, including agribusiness and ranchers - in exchange for help passing his own agenda - and hopefully avoiding impeachment.

Jaime Gesisky of the WWF said Mr Temer's position has not changed.

The president's vetoes were aimed at making him seem environmentally friendly on the eve of his trip to Norway, which has invested 3 billion US dollars (£2.3 billion) to combat tropical deforestation, he said.

"He is exempting himself from the responsibility," Mr Gesisky said, "while at the same time allowing his minister to make an agreement with legislators who have interests in the region."

AP

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