Brazil's Bolsonaro would unleash a war on the environment
Guardian Environment Network Climate change Brazil's Bolsonaro would unleash a war on the environment
Threats to the Amazon and its people and an end to the Paris agreement are among the grim promises of the far-right presidential hopeful, reports Climate Home
No more Paris agreement. No more ministry of environment. A paved highway cutting through the Amazon.
Not only that. Indigenous territories opened to mining. Relaxed environmental law enforcement and licensing. International NGOs, such as Greenpeace and WWF, banned from the country. A strong alliance with the beef lobby.
In a nutshell, this is what Jair Bolsonaro, who is sailing towards Brazilâs presidency after taking a near-majority in a first round vote on Sunday, has promised for the environment.
An enthusiast for torture and the 1964-85 military dictatorship, the retired army captain is famous for racist, homophobic, authoritarian and misogynistic rhetoric. But his views on how to manage Earthâs largest tropical rainforest are just as grim and appalling.
Bolsonaro has galv anised voters in urban centres who are disillusioned with the political establishmentâs corruption scandals and attracted to his âtough-on-crimeâ positions amid rising criminality rates. He received 46% of the vote on Sunday and now faces a 28 October run off with the Workers Partyâs Fernando Haddad, who polled 29%.
In the Amazon, illegal loggers, miners, land-grabbers, as well as large land owners have rallied to his banner. Here, they donât expect Bolsonaro to enforce the law. On the contrary, the hope is that he fulfils his promise to obliterate nearly all environment and pro-indigenous legislation. He won massive support in rural central western states and all but one Amazonian state.
In August, Bolsonaro raised eyebrows internationally when he pledged to join Trumpâs US and withdraw Brazil from the Paris agreement. That means the country would no longer be committed to curb its emissions from the deforestation of the Amazon, which is here a bigger sour ce of greenhouse gas than the burning of fossil fuels.
Bolsonaro accepts the climate is changing dangerously. CHN asked him about this during a press conference in April. He said the solution was in controlling the growth of the worldâs human population.
âThis explosive population growth leads to deforestation,â he said. âBecause you will not grow soy on the terrace of your building or raise cattle in the yard. So we have to have a family planning policy. Then you begin to reduce the pressure on those issues that lead, yes, in my opinion, to global warming, which could be the end of the human species.âIn Brazil and the US, democracy is at a crossroads | Jeffrey W Rubin Read more
Yet he praised president Trumpâs policy on the Paris deal and implied that it was part of a UN plot to strip Brazilâs sovereignty over the Amazon.
âCongratulations to Trump. If it were good for them, [the US] wouldnât have denounced it,â he said, adding that a concept for a â136m-hectare ecological corridorâ that would be âunder worldâs control, not oursâ had âbeen discussedâ. â I donât know how deeply,â he added.
Brazilâs current environment minister Edson Duarte said: âInstead of spreading the message that he will fight deforestation and organised crime, he says he will attack the ministry of environment, Ibama and ICMBio [Brazilâs federal environment agencies]. Itâs the s ame as saying that he will withdraw the police from the streets.â
Speaking to the O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper, Duarte said: âThe increase of deforestation will be immediate. I am afraid of a gold rush to see who arrives first. They will know that, if they occupy illegally, the authorities will be complacent and will grant concordance. They will be certain that nobody will bother them.â
Bolsonaroâs environment policies are tied to racist attitudes toward minorities and Brazilâs indigenous peoples. In a speech last year, he said: âMinorities have to bend down to the majority â¦ The minorities [should] either adapt or simply vanish.â
Expressing a view common to military circles, he has claimed, without evidence, that indigenous land rights are part of a western plot to create separatist Amazonian states supported by the UN.
âSooner or later, we will have dozens of countries inside [Brazil]. We wonât have any interference in these countri es, the first world will exploit the Indians, and nothing will be left for us,â he said last year.
Bolsonaro has promised to open indigenous lands to mining and other economic activities. About 13% of Brazilâs territory is recognised indigenous lands, most of them in the Amazon. They are a major barrier to protect the forest, only 2% of rainforest deforestation has occurred inside indigenous territory.
The law protects indigenous rights. Article 231 of the 1988 Constitution states that indigenous peoples have âoriginal rights over the lands that they have traditionally occupiedâ, although the land belongs to the state and they have no ownership rights over minerals.
But there are concerns about whether Bolsonaro will respect these laws. Several analysts have warned Brazil could slip towards authoritarian rule. These fears have increased in the past weeks. His running mate, general AntÃ´nio MourÃ£o, has argued for a new constitution without popular partic ipation and raised the possibility that Bolsonaro could proclaim a self-coup.
Both Bolsonaro and MourÃ£o have defended the excesses of Brazilâs military dictatorship, which displaced and killed (intentionally or through diseases) thousands of Indians in the Amazon, amid an effort to build roads and hydroelectric dams in the forest. The armed forces have never recognised any wrongdoing.
âIf he wins, he will institutionalise genocide,â says Dinamam TuxÃ¡, the national coordinator of Brazilâs Association of Indigenous Peoples, in a phone interview with Climate Home News. âHe has already said that the federal government will no longer champion indigenous rights, such as access to the land. We are very scared. I fear for my own life. As a national leader, I am sure I will be punished by the federal government for defending the rights of the indigenous peoples.â
During the campaign, Bolsonaro promised he will abolish the ministry of environment and transfe r its functions to the ministry of agriculture. The agriculture portfolio will be handed to politicians from the âbeef caucusâ, a conservative group of lawmakers who control about one third of Congress and have opposed indigenous land demarcations and advocated for the reduction of conservation units, among other measures, to expand the agriculture frontier. Last week, they formally endorsed Bolsonaro.
In several speeches, he said he would end the âfine industryâ run by Ibama and ICMBio, to control illegal mining, deforestation and logging. On Sunday he used his first post-election statement to vow to neuter Ibama.
This is personal for Bolsonaro. In 2012, he was caught fishing illegally inside a federal reserve off the coast of Rio de Janeiro and was issued a $2,700 fine. Since then as a member of Brazilâs chamber of deputies, he has targeted Ibama, going as far as presenting a bill that forbids its agents to carry weapons, even though they operate in some of the most dangerous areas of the country.
Ibama will be stripped of its environmental licensing powers, he said during the campaign. These will be redistributed to other official agencies. That means, for instance, that federal agency will no longer be able to contain controversial projects such as the reopening of the disused BR-319, an 890km highway that cuts from one of the most preserved areas of the Amazon, and SÃ£o Luiz do TapajÃ³s, a giant hydroelectric plant planned to be built in an area inhabited by the Munduruku indigenous group and river dwellers.
BR-319, which connects Manaus to Porto Velho, is specially troublesome, as it will allow for secondary roads. According to a study by NGO Idesam, an area as big as Germany and Belgium combined is under its influence and will become more vulnerable to land-grabbers and deforestation. Recent attempts to pave it have been barred by Ibama.
âHe names Ibama and ICMBio as his number one public enemies and has gi ven several messages that he will reverse environment and social laws,â said AndrÃ© GuimarÃ£es, director of the Amazon Environmental Research Institute. âHowever, one thing is what he says during the electoral campaign. Another thing is what he will be able to do if he takes office.â
GuimarÃ£es said that recently the beef caucus has tried to relax environmental and slave labour legislation, but failed in most of the attempts due to strong opposition.
âHe will try and he is obstinate, but itâs up to the civil society to react against it. It will be a scenario with intense and almost permanent disputes,â he said. âWe must be indignant.âTopics
- Climate change
- Guardian Environment Network
- Jair Bolsonaro
- Amazon rainforest
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