Brazil President Rousseff 'proud' of forest protection

An agent from Brazil's land reform agency INCRA looks at a logs extracted illegally from the Amazon rainforest, in Anapu 2 June 2012. President Rousseff said better checks had helped to tackle illegal deforestation

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Brazil enjoys the "privilege" of having the world's biggest rainforest and can be proud of its conservation efforts, President Dilma Rousseff has said.

Ms Rousseff was speaking just days before the UN sustainable development conference begins in Rio de Janeiro.

Speaking on her regular Monday radio broadcast, Ms Rousseff highlighted data showing deforestation at a record low.

She recently vetoed parts of a forest law but critics say the bill still relaxes environmental rules too much.

Ms Rousseff said she was proud that Brazil had managed to curb deforestation of the Amazon region.

She said it was "the result of the government's strong action" in policing environmental crimes and promoting less aggressive development policies.

"It's important too that we have offered alternatives... to people who live in the rainforest, so they can be productive and earn their living without destroying the environment."

Brazil had begun to design and implement a new model of sustainable development, she said, one that would be presented during the Rio+20 summit.

The preparatory phase of the meeting, held 20 years after the first Earth Summit in Rio, begins on Wednesday.

The main government delegations will be in the city between 20-22 June.

The conference comes just a few weeks after Brazil passed a revised forest code that eases environmental protection in some areas.

The country's farmers' lobby had long pushed for changes, arguing that the legislation undermined investment in the agriculture sector, which accounts for more than 5% of GDP.

But environmentalists wanted Ms Rousseff to veto the whole bill, which they argue will spur deforestation in the Amazon.

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