Large areas of the Amazon rainforest are on fire, waking up the world to a calamity: no natural disaster, but part of a long-running strategy of destruction and exploitation. Bolsonaro came to power, following the imprisonment of former president Lula on corruption charges, with a clear agenda to dismantle the protection of indigenous lands. He once said, “It’s a shame that the Brazilian cavalry hasn’t been as efficient as the Americans, who exterminated the Indians”.
The current fires were set deliberately to clear more land for agriculture, in particular cattle ranching, which is responsible for 80% of deforestation in the country. Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has increased by two-thirds during Bolsonaro’s presidency.
Indigenous people have as ever, been in the frontline of resistance, defending their land rights. The picture above is from the Indigenous Women March on August 13th, when almost 3000 indigenous women travelled from across Brazil to the nation's capital.
What can we do here in the UK?
The causes of the destruction are closer to home than you might think. The export market for commodities, in particular Brazilian beef, is driving deforestation. Europe is Brazil’s second biggest market for beef sales. The recently signed EU-Mercosur agreement between the EU and Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay would open EU markets to more beef imports in exchange for the export of EU cars, especially highly fuel-intensive SUVs. But the deal still needs to be approved by the European Parliament, and pressure is growing to block it.