Brazil's 'chainsaw queen' takes on environmentalists

5 May 2014

Outside the political hothouse of Brasilia, there are probably few who can name the head of Brazil's powerful agricultural lobby, yet the woman in question, Kátia Abreu, is rapidly becoming the country's most interesting, important – and dangerous – politician.

The senator and rancher from Tocantins was an influential force in the weakening of Brazil's forest code blamed by many for the recent rise in Amazon deforestation. Her support – in parliament and in an acerbic newspaper column – for more roads through the Amazon, congressional control over demarcation of indigenous reserves, more efficient monocultures and genetically modified "terminator seeds" has earned her the wrath of environmentalists who have called her "Miss Deforestation", "chainsaw queen" and the "face of evil".

Abreu, however, is defiant, saying she is preparing to run for president one day and wants to help Brazil overtake the US as the world's biggest food producer. "Running for president is not a plan – it is fate. I'm getting ready for that, preparing in case it is my destiny," she said in an interview at her office in Brasilia. "Criticism from radical environmentalists is the best form of endorsement. It gives me satisfaction. It shows I am on the right track and playing the right role."

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