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Amazon, "heart of the world" endangered by bolsonaristas in Brazil

*Another Bolsonaro term "would be devastating for the world": Noam Chomsky

By Karina Alvarado and Manuel Ortiz Escámez.
Peninsula 360 Press / Global Exchange.

The government of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, agree environmental experts, indigenous leaders and activists interviewed by Peninsula 360 Press, has meant a huge setback for environmental rights and conservation in the Amazon.

Therefore, the results of the first round of elections in Brazil, on October 2, imply an increase in tension and danger in the Amazon, as five of the seven northern states elected pro-Bolsonaro candidates.

The Amazon covers an area of more than 7 million square kilometers, which includes parts of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, French Guyana and Venezuela. It has been inhabited by more than 400 indigenous peoples for 15,000 years.

Brazil is the country with the largest extension of the Amazon, with 65 percent of this tropical forest, considered one of the most important points of climatic balance on our planet.

Despite this, the government of Jair Bolsonaro seems to have declared war on the global ecosystem, since during his administration the destruction of the Amazon has advanced rapidly, monitoring systems for illegal ecological activities have been dismantled, and the Amazon Fund that Brazil received from Germany and Norway to protect it has been frozen due to the president's mismanagement.

As a result, in July 2020, 2021 and 2022, the Brazilian Amazon will lose more than 4,500 kilometers of forest.

The five Brazilian states that lost the most trees are Pará, Amazonas, Mato Grosso, Rondônia and Acre, which, paradoxically, are those where bolsonarist tendencies have been present.

In Rondônia alone, two Bolsonarista candidates will compete in the second round, even though they promote agribusiness and reject environmental legislation that affects not only forests but also native communities.

In the same state is the territory of the Karipuna community, which comprises 153,000 hectares. These lands are among the eight most threatened and illegally deforested indigenous territories in Brazil - 44 percent more in 2021 compared to 2020.

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Village of the Karipuna community in southern Amazonas, Rondônia state. Photo: Manuel Ortiz Escámez

"We, the Karipuna and all indigenous people, say that we want a better Brazil, not only for us but for the entire population," said André Karipuna, leader of the Karipuna people, in an interview with Peninsula 360 Press.

André denounced that during the government of Jair Bolsonaro the rights of indigenous communities have been strongly affected.

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André Karipuna, leader of the Karipuna community, and his son Icaro Karipuna, 8, travel through their territory along the Jacipará River, which connects with the Amazon River. Photo: Manuel Ortiz Escámez

"It is something very worrying, Bolsonaro did something against our rights as indigenous peoples, and as a government official and president, he should have shown a very pro-indigenous peoples facet, but this really did not happen, so we feel very hurt," he pointed out.

Because of this, the Karipuna people have taken legal action in conjunction with GreenPeace Brazil and the Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI) against the Brazilian government, the state of Rondônia and the National Indian Foundation.

"The problem is that he, as president, wants to take away our right and our land, which is our legitimate good," André Karipuna added.

Not only have the forests been affected by Bolsonaro's actions and speeches that downplay the importance of preserving the Amazon, but also, as Peninsula 360 Press found during a visit to the Karipuna territory, the communities have suffered threats and aggressions by armed groups that invade, deforest and burn the territory to later use it to grow cattle feed.

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Part of the Karipuna territory that was recently slashed and burned by invaders. Photo: Manuel Ortiz Escámez.

Laura Vicuña, CIMI's regional coordinator in Rondônia, told Peninsula 360 Press that the Karipuna people are fighting to preserve their lands and that they want the world to know what is happening in the Amazon, since Jair Bolsonaro's speech has motivated different groups to invade their territories.

"What Bolsonaro's government is doing is legitimizing these criminal groups that invade the protected spaces we have in the Amazon and in Brazil," he said.

"The Amazon is the heart of the world," Vicuña said while pointing out that the Bolsonario government is contributing to the destruction of the Amazon.

Another case in which pro-Bolsonar forces have made their presence felt, despite the danger this represents for the Amazon, is Acre, a state in which Governor Gladson Cameli won reelection in the first round with 56.75 percent of the vote. In this state, Cameli has favored the relaxation of environmental regulations, which has resulted in numerous cases of fires and land grabbing.

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Aripâ Karipuna travels along the Jacipará River in Karipuna territory. He uses an old rifle as a way to defend himself in case of an attack by invaders, who often use high caliber weapons and are part of criminal groups that traffic timber and sell stolen land to farmers and industrial cattle ranchers. Photo: Manuel Ortiz Escámez

The results of the first round of the elections and with it the triumph of pro-Bolsonar governors in the Amazon territory, set off environmental alarms all over the planet. Noam Chomsky, linguist and one of the world's most renowned living intellectuals, recently stated that the future of the Amazon is at stake in this electoral dispute. "Another Bolsonaro mandate would be devastating for the world," he said.

In addition to indigenous peoples, a number of national and international organizations, academics and specialized journalists care for the Amazon. Therefore, for these sectors, the outcome of the second round of elections is vital.

With information from Brazil de Fato and Michael Fox.

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