Vice President Mourão discusses Brazil's policies toward the Amazon and the future of relations with the United States.
FERNANDEZ: Thank you, very much. And good afternoon to all the members. My name is Jose Fernandez. I will be having the pleasure of moderating our conversation today with Vice President Mourão. And I'd like just to provide a couple of minutes of just an introduction for the vice president to really, I'm sure is well known to all of you. The vice president took office at the beginning of last year after forty-six years of service in the Brazilian Army during which he reached the rank of army general, which is the highest rank that a Brazilian soldier can reach during in peacetime. He's a member of the Brazilian Labor Renewal Party and the first indigenous person to hold the office of vice president in Brazil. As second in command to a president whose tenure in office has been marked by the outbreak of a global pandemic, a sputtering economy that finally shows some signs of recovery, a global uproar over deforestation in the Amazon and the Pantanal, and yesterday a defeat of some of his favorite candidates in the municipal elections, Vice President Mourão has been hailed by many as a pragmatist and a voice of reason and moderation who has become a favorite interlocutor for the diplomatic and business community in Brazil. And at times, he has not been afraid to criticize other members of the Brazilian government. Vice President Mourão has been tasked by President Bolsonaro to help the Amazon Council to address the situation in the Amazon. And I know that that is one of the points that he's going to talk about this afternoon. He's agreed to give us some introductory remarks for the first five minutes or so. After that, we'll have a conversation for about twenty minutes and at about 3:30 Eastern time, we'll turn it over to the audience for their questions and answers. So Mr. Vice President, welcome to the Council. It's a real pleasure to have you and the floor is yours.
MOURÃO: Mr. Jose Fernandez, thank you for your introduction. Ambassador Nestor Forster, Brazilian ambassador in DC, and Mr. Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, thank you for the invitation to address the members and partners of the Council. Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. Brazil celebrated yesterday the 131st anniversary of our Republic, which had the United States' democracy as its main model and inspiration. Throughout our history, Brazilian political leaders have seen the United States as an indispensable partner and a beacon for the values of the Western civilization. Strong historical ties, shared values, and converging interests ensure a solid foundation for the bilateral partnership between our nations. Brazil and the United States are the two largest democracies of the West and the biggest economies in the American continent. The United States is the first destination for Brazilian manufactured goods and our second-largest trading partner. American companies have approximately $68 billion invested in Brazil, while our companies have $42 billion invested in the U.S. economy. Our vision converges on many global and regional issues because our societies are committed with democratic institutions, open markets, human rights and sustainable development. From the outset of our administration, President Bolsonaro acknowledged the strategic value of the partnership between both countries and the potential for its expansion. Bilateral mechanisms were created or reactivated enhancing cooperation on issues related to energy, science and technology, defense, trade and investment, among others. The intensity of our bilateral relation is not limited to interactions between government officials. The CEO Forum, reactivated last year, held its second mass meeting last month, reaffirming the leading role played by the private sector in identifying opportunities for greater cooperation and dialogue.
The solid foundation of our bilateral partnership allows us to expand the dialogue and cooperation to other strategic issues such as those pertaining to the preservation, protection, and sustainable development of the Amazon region. Sustainability has become an essential component for the twenty-first century pact between generations. The responsible management of the environment is mandated by our constitution and supported by the Brazilian people. That reestablishment of the National Council for the Legal Amazon in February this year represented an effort to integrate environmental protections and economic development in a comprehensive agenda for the Amazon. The well-known social and economic hardships in Brazil are magnified by the vast Amazon landscape due to poor logistics, limited state presence and above all, low integration with the rest of the country. In order to promote long-lasting policies for the region, the Council articulates that discussions with legislative and judiciary branches, the state-level authorities and municipalities, and as well as the private sector, civil society, and international partners. We want to show the world the environmental and human complexities of the Amazon, and we are willing to work together with all who are genuinely interested in the preservation and sustainable development of the forest to bring security, justice, and opportunities for the millions of Brazilians who live there. The Council held its third meeting on the last 3rd of November and has adopted a clear set of priorities for immediate action. These priorities are effective fines against environmental crimes and illegal land occupation, strengthening of the agencies responsible for environmental land-use controls, greater access to financing from public and private national- international sources, land-use planning and regularization, improved monitoring of environmental and land-use crimes, fostering of innovation and bioeconomy.
There is no silver bullet to overcome the Amazon challenge. Our ministries are working on the action plan to meet most [inaudible] targets. The fight against deforestation environmental crimes will only be effective if you strengthen the rule of law and foster sustainable economic activities for the millions of Brazilians living in the Amazon. Ladies and gentlemen, the year of 2020 has shown us how complex the challenges a globalized world can be. In only a couple of months a virus overwhelmed health systems and brought the global economy to its knees. Although the number of cases in Brazil is decreasing, the economy is resuming its growth and scientists are moving on to the last phase of vaccine development. We must remain alert. Personally, I'm optimistic that we are finally on track to win the battle against the pandemic. As I said at the start of this interaction, the solid foundations of our bilateral partnership allow Brazil and the United States to work together and aim high on any relevant issue. We are confident on the possibilities for greater dialogue and cooperation on matters related to the agenda of the Amazon Council. Thank you very much.
FERNANDEZ: Thank you, Mr. Vice President. Thank you very much for those kind words. I'd like to start by talking about what you started with, which is your role as the head of the Amazon Council. And you yourself have spoken about the need to combat climate change. But just three months ago, President Bolsonaro said the reports of numerous fires in the Amazon were a lie. One of your ministers, the environmental minister, has tried to discredit satellite data that showed increased deforestation in the Amazon. And then we heard last week that this year the Amazon has suffered its worst fire season and that you’ve lost about 20 percent of the Pantanal to fires in 2020. With those results and the questions about the commitment at the top on deforestation, how would you try and convince the world that you expect deforestation to be significantly reduced in Brazil?
MOURÃO: Well, first of all, I don't deny what happens in the Amazon. People have to understand the complexities and the size of the region. The region is very big. And of course the data compiled by the National Institute for Space Research leaves no doubt to the unrelenting growth in deforestation since 2012 with a sharp increase last year. Since May of this year, the federal government allowed the operation of Green Brazil 2 to fight against illegal deforestation, wildfires, and illegal mining too. And the armed forces has a great role because the armed forces support, gives security, and logistics so that the environmental agents can work. This operation has, well, so far as today, has reached some very good objects, okay. And we apprehended some 140,000 tons of illegal mining, okay. We destroyed almost a thousand equipment that were being used for the people who are deforesting, and almost, some $450 million in fees. So a lot of things that the government is doing to stop this. We have a plan so that until the end of this term of Mr. Bolsonaro, till the end of 2022, we will keep with these command-and-control operations so that by the end of 2022 we can be back at the best points that we had, the best stats that we had of deforestation before the year 2012. That's what we are doing.
FERNANDEZ: Thank you. What about the international community? You know, President Bolsonaro has responded to the international criticism over Brazil's environmental policy by labeling critics misinformed or saying that they're seeking to enter the Amazon for their own gain. And you yourself have said that, you know, that U.S. criticism needs to be tempered by the fact that the U.S. is a large emitter of carbon itself. But, you know, the U.S. is not alone and the EU and others have criticized the deforestation of the Amazon. So my question is, is there a role for foreign governments and nongovernmental organizations in the debate over Amazon deforestation? And what should that role be? And what kind of cooperation would you want from government and from NGOs?
MOURÃO: Well, Jose, one of the main pillars of our environmental policy is the payment for environmental service, okay. Once we keep 84 percent of the Amazon forest like it was since the beginning, and we are catching the carbon that is used the atmosphere, we should receive for this work that the Brazilian population is doing, okay. As you know, these points are being discussed in the Paris Agreement, the items 6.2 and 6.4. But so far today, we are still discussing this and last year's conference, we didn't reach a good point on these. We are waiting for the next environmental conference that is going to happen in Glasgow next year so that we can go on with this. This is a very important point.
FERNANDEZ: You mean the compensation by the Paris Agreement that was talked about in the past of [inaudible] compensation?
MOURÃO: Yes, the compensation of the Paris Agreement, okay. And other points is financing the efforts of the government. You know that we have budgetary problems, okay. We need access to financial resources, whether they are public or private, whether they are national/international. We are open, okay, to work together like I told you in my opening remarks.
FERNANDEZ: Thank you. So now we're going to switch and you must have known that this was coming—the U.S. election and relations with the United States. So far, President Bolsonaro and Russia's Vladimir Putin are two of the few world leaders that have yet to congratulate Vice President Biden on his election last November the 3rd. Before the election, President Bolsonaro was open in his endorsement of Donald Trump. And you have called his statements his personal opinion, but obviously, you realize that this is a difficult distinction to make between personal opinions and opinions of fate. What is behind the Brazilian reluctance so far to congratulate Vice President Biden and when would you expect Brazil to do so?
MOURÃO: I can't speak for Mr. Bolsonaro. I understand, for instance, that my opinion, I see that he's waiting for some kind of official declaration, okay, whether Mr. Trump accepts that he was defeated or whether when on December the 14th, when the people join together the final vote of their representatives from every American state. And that will be the moment there is no more denial about what happened in your election. And of course, many people here in Brazil they have some difficultly to understand your electoral process. That's totally different because the U.S. is a real federation, it's not like we behave here. So that's the way I think that in our government some people so far as they have not understood what's happening. But my clear opinion, my honest opinion is once it's very clear that Mr. Biden is the winner, we are going to conduct business as usual between our countries.
FERNANDEZ: Would you wait for a concession from Donald Trump?
MOURÃO: Well, it's not my vision, but okay, you have to understand I'm the vice president of Mr. Bolsonaro and as a former soldier you know that loyalty is a very important value for me.
FERNANDEZ: Understood. Understood. Thank you. All right. So in a Biden administration, obviously your government has aligned Brazilian foreign policy with Donald Trump's, would you expect that alignment to continue under a Biden administration?
MOURÃO: Well, I think that we will because historically Brazil and the U.S. have marched together. We have some moments that the relations were in that awkward point, another moment in a lower point, but always marching together. Because for us here, American democracy is a beacon, okay. And well, we've been together since our independence in the beginning of the nineteenth century. The U.S. was one of the first countries that recognized our independence, okay. We fought together in the Second World War in Italy, okay. My father belonged to the Brazilian Expeditionary Force and fought with you. I, myself, had the opportunity to live in the U.S. for almost two years. So I think that, like I told you before, okay, once Mr. Biden is an option, we are going to make the best approach and search for what is common in the relationship between two countries—mutual benefit. That's what we're going to try to find.
FERNANDEZ: And what about staying on that theme? Last month the U.S. and Brazil signed a trade cooperation and promotion agreement, which was seen as a prelude to a potential free-trade agreement between Brazil and the United States. Is a free-trade agreement still Brazil's objective? Talk a little bit about the future of economic engagement and what's going to happen to that TPA, trade promotion agreement, and then the potential FTA?
MOURÃO: Okay, since a long time ago, this has been a, let's say, our main goal for Brazil's government. Okay, so, we are looking forward for a free-trade agreement with the U.S. And, like I told you before, always trying to reach mutual benefit, okay. Good for both countries, win-win relations. That is the best kind of relation that two nations can have.
FERNANDEZ: And a subject that has come up between the U.S. and Brazil and actually came up a couple of weeks ago when the U.S. delegation visited Brazil and offered to finance the purchase of 5G equipment from companies presumably other than Huawei. Is your expectation that Brazil will allow Huawei to participate in next year's 5G auction?
MOURÃO: Well, let's see. Huawei is not going to participate in the auction. The auction is for the operators, okay. And the operators will buy the goods from Huawei. That's how it happens. My vision, any company that wants to stay here in Brazil where you operate 5G has to work to comply with three points: first of all, the respect of this sovereignty of Brazil; second, to respect the privacy of everybody who use the system; and third, the best price—economic. So anyone who complies with these three aspects, I think that can work together with us.
FERNANDEZ: Thank you. All right. There's a lot we could talk about, and I thank you for your time. Let's talk about the reason why we're doing this virtually as opposed to in person—COVID. Brazil has the third-highest number of cases after the U.S. and India. It has also the second-highest mortality rate after the United States. And yet, your president has dismissed COVID-19 as a little flu, held rallies without a mask, defended the use of hydroxychloroquine, touted Brazil's success in beating COVID, and last week said that Brazil had to stop being a country of sissies and confront the pandemic. What exactly is the plan to bring down COVID or are you just going to try it and ride it out until a vaccine arrives?
MOURÃO: Well, the government of President Bolsonaro is working to save lives and to keep the economy on its feet, it's a balance, okay. We spent a lot more than the average of developed countries and twice as much of developed nations to fight the effects of COVID-19. Our debts went sky high because of what we did. And of course, we have territorial continental proportions with different climate zones. Seventeen cities with a population over one million and pronouncing disparities in infrastructure, income levels and response capability of public health departments. But I think that the government did a good job, okay, to work in the three main curves, I used to say. The first curve was the health one, okay. We had a higher rate of people who got the disease, but their lethality rate today is below 3 percent. So our health system was able to do its job, okay. First, people used to say that everybody was going to die in the street, but this didn't happen. Also, the social problem—the government put money straight ahead in the hands of people who had formal jobs, and from night to day that didn't have any way to win their lives. And the third, a lot of measures were taken so that their formal jobs were preserved and the companies could still keep afloat, and also states and municipalities that were losing their incomes due to the taxes that were not being collected, the government contributed to that, put money into the states and municipalities. So besides, we'll have almost 107,000 people that passed away because of this disease. I myself lost two best friends in this. Okay, I think that the government did a good job.
FERNANDEZ: And would you expect any more or is the government willing to entertain another lockdown? Is it willing to entertain mandatory vaccinations when hopefully they arrive?
MOURÃO: Vaccines are mandatory here in Brazil. Mr. Bolsonaro in February signed a decree saying that vaccines are mandatory. But sometimes there is a discussion because you see today there is a worldwide movement against vaccines. A lot of people, I think, they came back to the sixteenth century. I don't know what's happened all around. So a lot of people come and say, I won't take the vaccine. Okay, you can't grab the guy and take him to the vaccine [inaudible] so that he will be vaccinated. But it's mandatory, okay.
FERNANDEZ: And what about a couple of weeks ago, the Brazilian health minister announced that Brazil will buy dosages of Chinese vaccines from Sinovac for use in Sao Paulo. Twenty-four hours later, President Bolsonaro contradicted him saying that Brazilians would not be anybody's guinea pig. What exactly is the status of that policy? Will Brazil purchase Chinese and Russian vaccines if they are available?
MOURÃO: Well, it is a political discussion because you know that the government of the state of Sao Paulo is the main opposition against Mr. Bolsonaro, okay. So they are quarreling a lot about this. But I think last Thursday, Mr. Bolsonaro in his live program that he does every Thursday, he said very clearly that once the Chinese vaccine, CoronaVac, is certified by our agents of regulation, he will buy it. He said that last Thursday. So it's a political discussion, okay. I want to say one thing to everybody that's listening to us—you must pay attention in the acts of Mr. Bolsonaro, not in his words.
FERNANDEZ: We've heard that in other parts of the world, too.
MOURÃO: The acts. Not in the words.
FERNANDEZ: Okay, one last quick question. Will Brazil remain a member of the WHO and PAHO, the Pan American Health Organization. There was an article a couple of weeks ago in the New York Times that talked about Brazil and the U.S. not funding the Pan American Health Organization and that’s creating some issues and some problems in its ability to fight COVID in the Americas. Is that in the cards or do you think Brazil will remain a member of those organizations?
MOURÃO: In my opinion, Brazil will remain a member of these organizations. What happened today, due to our budgetary problems, we are having a lack of funds to pay our debts with these organizations. And the foreign affairs minister is making a discussion in Congress so that we can—also the economy minister—they are discussing this too so that Congress can put some extra money for us to pay the multilateral organizations that we have a debt with them, okay.
FERNANDEZ: Thank you. We could go on, but the Council rules are fixed in stone. So I'd like to now ask and invite members to join our conversation with your questions. And Teagan or someone at the Council, if you could just tell us what the rules are, please.
STAFF: We will take the first question from Kellie Meiman Hock.
Q: Hello, hopefully you can hear me. Thank you so much, Mr. Vice President, for your presentation. And Jose asked the very important question about Huawei, but I wanted to ask a broader question about China and just given that Brazil traditionally, you know, has been such a player in multilateral affairs and we know that President-elect Biden is interested in multilateralizing the approach towards China. I'm just wondering, given that there are a number of policy issues on intellectual property, biotech, agriculture, market access, where Brazil and the United States have very aligned interests, I'm wondering what role you think Brazil might be able to play in that multilateralization of that relationship? Thank you.
MOURÃO: Well, thank you, Kellie, for your question. Well, these frictions in the U.S.-China relations are not good for the rest of the world. Brazil is not taking sides, because we have built enduring partnerships with all major players in the international arena based on the principles of multilateralism, peaceful dispute settlement, and nonintervention that guide our diplomacy. So in my opinion, it's important that we keep a flexible and pragmatic approach right now in our foreign policy. Always having perspective—our national interests and our role as one of the main food suppliers in the world, our biodiversity and environmental heritage, and the need to attract investment and technology to boost our development. So I think Brazil can act to, let's see, to cushion, to cushion these tensions and, well, bring everybody together and try to solve these disputes that you mentioned through the multilateral organizations that so far today represent everybody around the world. And that's the way I see what's happening.
FERNANDEZ: Thank you. Next question, please.
STAFF: We will take the next question from Kip Hale.
Q: Hello, thank you Vice President for your participation here today. Boa tarde—tudo bem. My name is Kip Hale. I work for the Commission for International Justice and Accountability and my question is on human rights. It's often not known that Brazil is the most populous state party to the International Criminal Court. And as recently the Trump administration has put sanctions on the International Criminal Court. I'm curious if Brazil is contemplating in their bilateral relations with the United States to push for the United States to have a better relationship with the International Criminal Court given Brazil's investment in the court similar to how European and the EU do with their bilateral relations with the United States? Thank you very much.
MOURÃO: Well, Kip, thank you for your question. What I can answer you is, it's not the way that the Brazilian government—so far as today any Brazilian government—to go inside and dispute around the international penal court. We, so far to date, we are looking to elect a representative of ourselves there. So we see the international penal court as very representative. So that's the way we behave. I don't see any pushing from the Brazilian government regarding the relation between the U.S. and the international penal court. That's the way we see it.
FERNANDEZ: Okay, next question.
STAFF: We will take the next question from Eli Whitney Debevoise.
Q: Thank you very much, Mr. Vice President. My question is about Venezuela. How does Brazil see the way forward on Venezuela at this point?
MOURÃO: Well, Eli, thank you for the question. You know that we have a common border with Venezuela. I myself had the opportunity to live two years there and saw the beginning of the, let's say, the destruction of the economy and the social issues of Venezuela. Well, so far as today, I don't see a quick solution for what's happening there because, as far as Mr. Maduro's government is supported by the armed forces, the local opposition has no force to oust Mr. Maduro. So I think that they are in a stalemate. And I think the international community has to find other ways to make the Venezuelans reach a good agreement and the country can be put back on its tracks because it was a very beautiful country, a country that had a lot of opportunities to reach a very high development. And now it's facing a very difficult situation with many people running away, many people coming here to Brazil and to other countries. So I think the international community has a big role to bring peace to Venezuela.
FERNANDEZ: Next question, please.
STAFF: We will take the next question from Teresa Barger.
Q: Hello, thank you. Teresa Barger from Cartica Management. Thank you very much, Mr. Vice President. If you wouldn't mind, I'd love to turn to economics for a minute and ask you what economic reforms you think we might expect, or would you guess we might expect, between now and February or in 2021 after the legislative realignment in February? Thank you.
MOURÃO: Well, Teresa, thank you for your question. You know that economic reforms are very, very needed here in Brazil because since the '80s we are trapped in that middle income—and we have to advance and there are two reforms that are very important, the tax system reform and administrative reform, because our federal government and state government and municipalities have a lot of problems and they need to have new rules to work. And I don't think that before February you can advance any of these reforms. The municipal elections are going to end on the 29th of November, the Congress will have some 15 to 20 days to work, then comes the period of Christmas and New Year. I don't think the Congress is going to work in January. In the beginning of February there will be the election of the two leaders of both houses and, I think, beginning late February we can advance these reforms. And once again, Teresa, I want to make sure to you that it is our responsibility as government to push these reforms because without them things are going be very tough here.
FERNANDEZ: Mr. Vice President, if I may follow up on that because Brazil has been complimented by the international financial institutions for what it's done with the economy in terms of providing stimulus during the COVID pandemic. Is that something that as you look at a second wave that the Brazilian government would be willing to continue in the future if COVID continues in Brazil?
MOURÃO: Well, our economy minister, Mr. Paulo Guedes, last week, he said if by chance a second wave, a strong second wave happened here in Brazil, we would think in providing this support again. It's not going to be easy since our fiscal situation is very, it's a very hard one. As you see, we are looking ahead that we are going to end this year with the relation between debt and our GDP and about 100 percent. Well, for the U.S. it's not a problem, but for us it's a problem, okay. So we have to look very carefully with these measures.
FERNANDEZ: Thank you. Next question please.
STAFF: We will take our next question from Stanley Gacek.
Q: Yes. Boa tarde vossa excelência—good afternoon. I serve as the senior advisor for global strategies of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. We represent 1.3 million working women and men in the United States and Canada in the retail, wholesale, supermarket, packing house and healthcare industries. As a matter of fact, our largest unionized employer for the packinghouse industry is JBS S.A.—JBS. I want to pick up on Mr. Fernandez's earlier question about the commitment of the Bolsonaro administration to continue talks on a comprehensive free trade agreement with the United States. Would Brazil be opened to having conditioned compliance with labor and environmental rights as part of this agreement? And does the Bolsonaro administration have a commitment to furthering labor and trade union rights given its termination of the labor ministry? President Bolsonaro's articulated desire to end the labor judiciary and what was inherited by the Bolsonaro administration from the Temer administration, is a radical neoliberal reform of the labor relations system vaulting the negotiated overlegislated labor rights, but also, in my humble opinion, also deconstructing a lot of the former collective bargaining system. I'd like to point out that obviously that labor law reform was brought into effect in 2017 prior to the entrance of your administration. Thank you.
MOURÃO: Mr. Stanley, thank you for the question. I myself have spoken with many representatives of our unions about the topics that you pointed mainly about the reform that we had in 2017. And about the agreements between Brazil and the U.S., we are looking for broad agreements like we have with the European Union, okay. And, of course, a lot of things are changing in the work of the workers, okay? Because relationships are different now in this twenty-first century. And this pandemic showed it. It was a lot of people doing their work in their houses. And there is a different way of relations between workers and the companies that employ them, okay. But, of course, we are always looking through the glass of our constitution. And our constitution is very mandatory about the rights of people. So we are not going to cross any line that will take rights from people. That's the way we think in Mr. Bolsonaro's government.
FERNANDEZ: Just to follow up on Stanley's question, another angle that I think will be important for, just to throw it out there, future trade agreements will be the environmental side. That, as you know, has been a bone of contention between the U.S. and with a number of organizations that have said that the U.S. model needs to upgrade its environmental restrictions and we saw it in the Mexico agreement. In your discussions with, if you could answer in discussions with the U.S. government, did you talk about environmental concerns at all?
MOURÃO: Well, I think that in these discussions that we reached in the agreement of October 19, the environmental question was not a basic issue. But once again, Jose, I want to put it in a very clear way, we have a very comprehensive legislation on environmental issues. I think no country has a legislation so comprehensive. Our main problem is to make this legislation effective, okay. We have to make every kind of effort so that people comply with it. Because what happens? We had people working one way and this legislation is from 2012. So it reaches people doing a lot of things that are not allowed anymore in this legislation, okay. So the biggest problem that we have today is to make people that, before the legislation, did things one way, now have to correct themselves.
FERNANDEZ: Thank you. Ms. Judd, another question.
STAFF: We will take the next question from Peter Seligmann.
Q: Thank you so much, Mr. Vice President. It's remarkable to be able to hear you and to understand what you are working on. You spoke recently of the rights of all Brazilian people. Of course, this includes the constitutional rights of the indigenous peoples of the Amazon. And apparently the Bolsonaro government has proposed changing the status of some of these constitutional rights. You also touched upon the importance of the Amazon for the entire world, but especially for Brazil, and of course, for all of South America. So much of the Amazon is still under the guardianship in the presence of indigenous peoples who've lived there and care for the place for millennia. Yet extractive industries—farming, fishing, logging, mining—are infringing on these territories. So my question is what will the government of Brazil do to ensure the ongoing territorial guardianship and the rights of indigenous peoples of the Amazon? Thank you.
MOURÃO: Well, Peter, thank you for your question. Very objective. First of all, I want to make clear that the Brazilian Amazon only started to be systematically occupied in the late twentieth century. Beginning in the '70s people started to go to the Amazon. And of course, we have different realities regarding indigenous communities. There are Indians in the urban areas, in transition areas, and natives in isolated regions in the far west of the Amazon. We have a firm belief that the government should protect indigenous groups that decide to live in isolation according to their traditions. On the other hand, we should respect and support those indigenous people that decide to integrate in the Brazilian society in our culture in general. And regarding invasions in indigenous lands, we have in the Amazon more than one million square kilometers of indigenous lands. And our latest figures, it's that we have only 8 percent of illegalities happening in this one million square kilometers, okay. The main illegalities happen in public areas. That means areas that so far as today have not been given to the private sector, has not been transformed in conservation units or indigenous lands, okay. We have some fifteen million hectares of public areas and about 30 percent of them are being invaded. That's my main concern and my main problem today.
FERNANDEZ: Next question, please.
STAFF: We will take our next question from Hani Findakly
Q: Thank you very much. Thank you, Mr. [Vice] President, and thanks, Jose, for doing a good job on this meeting. Mr. [Vice] President, I wanted to bring you back to the issue of COVID-19 and its impact on the way we live, on the way we communicate, with the way we go to school, on the way meetings like this are taking place. Do you have a vision as to what a post-COVID-19 world would look like and whether or not this will impact the way Brazil looks at itself? And what kind of economic strategy, adjustments is going to be needed in that new post-COVID-19 world?
MOURÃO: Well, Hani, thank you for your question. I think that one thing, it's, well, it's already in the eyes of everybody, the technological advances that we are facing. Many companies were waiting to make these advances, to make these changes in the way they produce their goods. And with the pandemic they [inaudible] and the technology now allows it at the moment. People say that we are in a new age, the knowledge economy age. So it's a knowledge economy age that was coming not at a fast pace, now it's coming very, very fast. Also, another consequence that may happen is the change in the global change of value in the places where people are putting their money, in the place where companies are producing their goods. This can change, okay, because from night to day we saw that many things were produced only in one country and we were dependent on that. So maybe this can be another change that happens. So that's the way we are seeing it. I've been talking to a lot of people from the private sector, and they are all paying attention to these and jumping fast to attach to this new kind of economy—the knowledge economy—okay.
FERNANDEZ: Thank you. I think we've got two more questions in the queue. I'm going ask the next two questioners to just ask the questions now and if you could be quick and this way everyone gets a chance to ask. So, Ms. Judd, go ahead and allow the next two questions.
STAFF: We will take our last two questions from Patrick Dennis Duddy and Eli Whitney Debevoise. Mr. Duddy, could you please state yours first?
Q: Good afternoon, Mr. Vice President, and thank you for this very interesting session. My question has to do with Mercosul. Obviously, President Bolsonaro and President Fernandez project very different images and they seem to have very different political instincts. Could you speak to what you see as the future of the Mercosul? Will it survive? Will it grow? Will Brazil continue to coordinate its policies with its Mercosul partners? Thank you.
MOURÃO: Well, thank you, Patrick. Well, Mercosul, it's very important for us since the beginning of this agreement. We've been trying to reach the best points for every country here. Today, the two main countries of Mercosul—Brazil and Argentina—are very different kinds of government, but we have to reach the best points for both countries and for all the markets, okay. And Argentina is facing a crisis, a very, very difficult crisis, okay. And the crisis in Argentina has consequences for Brazil because Argentina was our third partner in trade and now it shrunk because many of our manufactured goods produced in the south of Brazil are not being sold anymore to Argentina. So we need a strong Argentina because it's good for everybody. That's the way we are seeing it today. We must help Argentina to get back on track because it's good for Mercosul and it's good for everybody in South America.
STAFF: Mr. Debevoise?
Q: Oh, thank you, I didn't really expect to get another chance to ask another question. But maybe I could just follow up on the answer you gave me about Venezuela to dig a little bit deeper in terms of what you think the international community can do. You're obviously very affected in Brazil, by disease, by crime, by immigrants, etcetera. But what can the neighbors contribute to trying to find a solution? And finally, how's Brazil going to do in the next World Cup?
FERNANDEZ: Let's just take the first one.
MOURÃO: (Laughs.) Well, I think we have to have a better dialogue with the Venezuelan government, okay, because, well, we've been putting a lot of pressure over Maduro's government but they have support from other major players like Russia, China, Iran. So we have to reach a better dialogue, okay. We have to make people come together because the Venezuelan society, well, they are divided, but now, it's not a fight between rich and poor. Their society is divided top-down. There are people from every social class supporting the government or against the government. That's what I saw there and what I think that is still happening there. So—dialogue. Without dialogue, we won't reach nothing better for anybody and Venezuela will, well, end like a non-state. That's what has happened today.
FERNANDEZ: Thank you. I think we've reached the end of our conversation. Mr. Vice President, it's been a real pleasure. I think we can all see why you have been called such a good interlocutor for the Brazilian government and it's a delight to be able to speak to you. A reminder to those of you who were unable to hear everything that the audio and transcript of today's meeting will be posted on the Council on Foreign Relations website. And I'd like to give a virtual applause to the vice president and thank you, sir, for taking the time to speak to us.
MOURÃO: Well, thank you, Jose. Thank you to everybody for the questions and for this dialogue that we had, and I hope to have fulfilled your expectations and for everybody, like a soldier, my best salute. Thank you.