The Amazon fires are Bolsonaro’s political crimes and call for urgent action
The recent images of fires in the Amazon, in Pantanal, Cerrado and Chaco as well as the smoke clouds hovering over São Paulo, are not mere coincidences of climate. They are the result of advances in neo-extractivism and deforestation, intensified by the criminal policies of Jair Bolsonaro’s government. This government is manipulating legal frameworks to promote vicious policies against the most basic human rights as well as against Nature Rights. The colossal rings of fire engulfing the Amazon are one of the most abhorrent chapters of his political crimes and deserve the most urgent and active repudiation by the entire international community.
From his electoral campaign (that took place between August and October), Bolsonaro has supported militias, cattle ranchers, farmers, loggers, illegal miners and all those who are interested in plundering natural resources. His support bolsters environmental crimes, violence against indigenous, peasant and environmental leaders as well as impunity for those crimes.
The first measures taken when he assumed office were aimed at removing environmental regulations and Indigenous people’s rights (MP 870/2019). In his explicitly racist Facebook live-streaming sessions, he promised to legalise mining and soybean cultivations inside indigenous territory, emboldening interest groups involved in criminal activities. In Bolsonaro’s government, his ministers systematically persecute public officials who oversee the rainforest, at the same time as they cut public funds for programs that follow environmental laws; for example, the budget cuts to the federal police and the environmental protection agency (Ibama).
The images of the Brazilian Amazon fires that worry (or should worry) the entire world, are the result of these policies. The National Institute for Space Research (INPE) – that Bolsonaro has attacked with censorship, accusations of fake news and political interventions – has documented over 72,800 fires this year. This represents an 83% increase in relation to last year after a 278% increase in deforestation in the month of July and a 30% reduction of the fines imposed by the environmental protection agency. What stokes these fires are the criminal actions that go hand in hand with extractivist greed, be it from agribusiness, large-scale mining, forest plundering or speculative land accumulation, among others. As forest fires advance, so too do river and biodiversity destruction; water, air and soil pollution; murder, torture and persecution of indigenous and traditional communities (ribeirinhos,peasant and quilombolas) and the mass killing of animals. With each of these fires, the threat of extermination to those peoples, cultures and species is also stoked.
The fires that we condemn here are not only happening in Brazil, there are also fires in Bolivia and Paraguay that share the same motivations and actors. The apathy and political responsibility for these crimes belongs to the governments of those countries too and to all the governments that, independently of their ideological orientation, have encouraged the current extractivist greed.
In truth, the systematic destruction of the Amazon did not begin with Bolsonaro, nor is it restricted to his government. However, since his arrival to power a perverse acceleration, intensification and impunity towards these trends can be seen. This senseless advance of neo-extractivism, savage deforestation and uncontrolled burning in the context of a drought illustrate the key dynamic of capitalism and its tendency to ecocide. The destruction and devastating effects of these policies not only extend to all of the Amazon basin, but also other important eco-regions in South America, such as the Pantanal, the Cerrado and the Chaco. The intensification of a pattern of accumulation based upon the systematic plundering of the natural goods of these territories, put us all in a situation of extreme danger, not only for the Amazon and its historical peoples, nor even for South America, but for the entire human population that live in and off our planet Earth.
The burning of the Amazon is another chapter, perhaps one of the gravest, of the process of devastation that the ‘modern economy’ is carrying out in front of our eyes. In the name of ‘development’ and ‘civilization’ we are witnessing one of the most extreme acts of human barbarism. We believe and say that – for ourselves, not for ‘the environment’ – we cannot remain passive in front of this macabre spectacle of mass destruction and death. From a critical academia committed to society and nature we make an urgent call for an active repudiation of this government and its criminal policies over the Amazon. We call for solidarity to multiply and coordinate actions to defend the Amazon and its peoples, guardians of the forest and the waters, to stop and condemn the crimes against nature and humanity that the government of Bolsonaro continues to perpetrate.
Firman: Académicos e investigadores de más de 50 universidades de América Latina y Europa
Brasil: Felipe Milanez, Carlos Porto-Gonçalves, Camila Moreno, Stephanie Salgado, Luiz Marques, Ricardo Folhes, Caetano De’ Carli, Daniel Jeziorny, Elaine Santos, Cláudia Guedes, Marcos Leite De Matos Todt, Salvador Schavelzon, Laila Thomaz Sandroni, Gilca, Garcia de Oliveira, Roberto Araújo de Oliveira Santos Júnior, Laila Sandroni, Eduardo Neves, Vanessa Empinotti, Ricardo Theophilo Folhes, Edna Castro, Thiago Cardozo, Gilca Garcia de Oliveira, Íñigo Arrazola Aranzabal, Adriana Bravin. Argentina: Horacio Machado Aráoz, Maristella Svampa, Paula Damico, Ana Carballo, María Gabriela Merlinsky, Nazaret Castro, Ariel M. Slipak, Marian Sola Alvarez, Jonatán Andrés Núñez, Laura Álvarez, Gabriela Wyczykier, Lucrecia Wagner, Facundo Rojas, Pablo Bertinat, Leticia Sadi, Sofia Astelarra, Cecilia Anigstein, Pablo Jorge Bertinat, Juan Antonio Acacio, Melisa Argento, Julieta Godfrid, Martín Kazimierski, Gustavo Romeo, Martina Gamba, Bruno Fornillo. Chile: Beatriz Bustos, Francisca Fernández, María Fragkou, Evelyn Arriagada, Santiago Urrutia Reveco. Colombia: Denisse Roca Servat, Catalina Toro Pérez, Tatiana Roa Avendaño, Patricia Noguera, Laura Gutiérrez, Yusmidia Solano Suárez, John Fitzgerald Martinez, Mario Alejandro Pérez Rincón, Paola Marcela Trivino Cruz, Juan Camilo Cajigas, Johan Ardila Espinel, Ximena Osorio Osorio, Mauro Carvajal Guerrero, Camilo Salcedo Montero, María Luisa Eschenhagen, Ana Isabel Márquez Pérez, Yusmidia Solano. Costa Rica: Grettel Navas. Cuba: Maydi Bayona, Gilberto Javier Cabrera Trimiño, Yolanda Wood. Ecuador: Melissa Moreano, Elizabeth Bravo. Honduras: Sofia Marcia, Carlos Alberto Alvarado Hernandez, Orlando David Murillo Lizardo. México: Enrique Leff, , Víctor Toledo Manzur, Mina Lorena Navarro, Omar Felipe Giraldo, Aída Luz López, Flor Mercedes Rodríguez Zornoza, Mariana Elkisch, Raquel Gutiérrez Aguilar, Ezer May May, Sergio Prieto Díaz, Lucia Linsalata, Úrsula Hernández, Sandra Rátiva Gaona, Ramón Martínez Coria, Scott Robinson, Elisa Cruz Rueda, Romel González. Nicaragua: Mario Sánchez. Perú: Gisselle Vila Benites, Raquel Neyra, Luis Felipe Torres Espinoza. Puerto Rico: Gustavo García. Venezuela: Edgardo Lander, Emiliano Terán Mantovani. Bélgica: Robin Larsimont. España:Joan Martínez Alier. Francia: Mina Kleiche. Italia: Salvatore Engel-Di Mauro.