The Amazon in Flames: Who Is Responsible?
By Anisio Garcez Homem
On Monday, August 19, at around three in the afternoon, more than 12 million people in São Paulo and its suburbs were suddenly plunged into darkness. The mainstream press and some members of the Bolsonaro government invoked a “cold front” in the south of the country! This “explanation” did not last long. Everyone quickly realized that these were clouds of smoke from the huge fires in the Amazon forest.
Who are the arsonists?
From the time Jair Bolsonaro came to power until August 19, 2019, the number of fires has increased by 70%. According to the National Institute of Territorial Research (INPE), Brazil recorded 66,900 fire outbreaks during this period, more than 50% of which occurred in the Amazon.
These gigantic fires are neither a “natural” phenomenon, nor an accident, nor the result of negligence, but the result of a deliberate action by the large landowners, pushed by Bolsonaro.
It was on July 27 that Bolsonaro gave the green light to large landowners to accelerate deforestation. During a military parade, he stated in a provocative message to which he is accustomed, that the environmental issue was only of concern to a “handful of vegans, vegetable eaters.”
The fazendeiros (large landowners) have set fire to lands they do not own: protected forest areas, rural settlements and indigenous peoples’ reserves. Their age-old land-grab method involves burning, evacuating, and then appropriating all “abandoned” lands.
From accomplices to the highest levels of the State
These crimes have benefited from the complicity of the highest levels of government. The Brazilian press has just revealed that as early as August 7, the Bolsonaro government had been informed of this “day of fires”… and that it did not move a finger to prevent it.
Likewise, the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office (MPF) of the State of Pará sent an alert on August 7 to the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Natural Resources (IBAMA), which is part of the Ministry of the Environment. It too did not lift a finger. At the same time, the National Security Force, led by Minister of Justice Sergio Moro (who, when he was a judge in 2018, had Lula convicted and imprisoned), also was alerted but took no action. And for good reason: Moro ordered the police forces to withdraw from the region all the inspectors of the IBAMA assigned to protect the rainforest. This left the arsonists’ free rein to do as they pleased.
Capitalist greed or agrarian reform
There is no other way to preserve the Amazon rainforest than to carry out a profound agrarian reform in the country. This is the only way to ensure rational land-use planning for agricultural plantations and livestock.
Without land reform, land grabs by large landowners, attacks on indigenous reserves and the destruction of forests will increase as a result of the pressure of speculation and the global capitalist market.
In addition to its lands, the Amazon rainforest is home to immense riches that excite capitalist greed: water, oil, gas, iron, aluminium, manganese, silvinite and other minerals, not to mention the plant biodiversity that the pharmaceutical industry covets. The Institute of Applied Economic Research (IPEA) estimates the market value of the Brazilian Amazonian forest at $1 trillion.
Bolsonaro dares to talk about defending the Amazon “with the help of Trump.” It is no secret that U.S. imperialism is seeking direct access to the gigantic riches of the Amazon. And incidentally, this region provides a base from which to launch militarily attacks on Venezuela.
As for the cynicism of Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel and all G7 leaders, it cannot fool anyone: they too are seeking their place at the table of the imperialist feast to get their hands on the riches of the Amazon!
The survival of the Amazon is incompatible with the survival of the Bolsonaro government
The preservation of the Amazon, a fundamental ecological reserve in the service of the survival of humanity, must be a concern for workers and young people all over the world. It begins by defending the national sovereignty of the countries concerned.
The Amazon must not become a gigantic reservoir from which the great powers and other capitalist raptors come to draw what they want and when they want, as they have already done in Africa or the Middle East. The survival of the Amazon is incompatible with the survival of the Bolsonaro government. Therefore, saving the Amazon begins with international support for the workers and youth of Brazil who are fighting to drive out Bolsonaro and his government.