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The Amazon in the Beginning of the Presidency of Jair Bolsonaro

According to the Sistema de Alerta de Desmatamento/SAD-Amazon (Deforestation Alert System), a 66% increase in deforestation has been observed in July 2019 compared to July 2018. Deforestation has occurred mainly in the states of Para, Amazonas, Rondônia, Mato Grosso, and Roraima. The Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais- INPE (National Institute of Spatial Research), which employs a different methodology, registered a 278% increase in deforestation in the same period.

The expansion in deforestation follows Jair Bolsonaro’s government guidelines for consolidating the Amazon as a frontier of natural resources to be exploited by agribusiness, mining and wood extraction. Sustainable development is not a government commitment anymore.

The retreat in surveillance and enforcement of deforestation is a worrying sign for environmentalists. Reports on biome deforestation have led to reduced funding from countries associated with the Fundo Amazônia (Amazon Fund), which finances conservation and sustainable use projects for Legal Amazon. There are 103 projects registered and more than 1 billion reais invested in connection with the Fundo Amazônia, according to 2019 data.

Under Jair Bolsonaro's government, the traditional populations of the quilombola (communities of slave descendants) and indigenous territories have been seen as obstacles to Brazilian capitalist development and as allied with international interests through NGOs and Euro-American governments. For this reason, the government is signaling a review of the demarcation of indigenous and quilombola lands.

Today, despite the importance of the creation of Territorial Environmental Conservation Units in the Amazon (National Parks, Biological Reserve, Extractive Reserve or Ecological Reserve) as a State policy, a series of land problems are present, and these areas constitute a battlefield of social groups in dispute for power and diverse rights. These areas are also the setting for the standardization of different forms of social relations and the appropriation of regional socio-biodiversity.

Some processes of creation of Conservation Units (UC) are not the result of actions by environmental groups, but of an official political agenda to carry out a discursive approach with traditional populations to bring in financial resources on a global scale, such as the Fundo Amazônia.

There is a list of problems from Territorial Environmental Conservation Units: 1) insufficient resources for management; 2) inefficient land regularization; 3) territorial re-categorization and re-delimitation; 4) poor monitoring; 5) low public use of Conservation Units; 6) the weak legitimization of the Conservation Units in relation to traditional communities and society in general, according to Vilma Terezinha de Araújo Lima (2019).

More: Amazon fires would affect the air quality and water cycle.

Another problem from Amazon Conservation Units is the legitimation of a collective symbolic capital associated with traditional peoples and socio-environmental ideas as a strategy for extracting income by corporations for competitive advantage within neoliberalism.

Thus, partnerships are established with traditional populations for the appropriation of regional biodiversity and the discursive use of the importance of maintaining the standing forest, as well as for the reduction of carbon emissions and environmental certification of goods with consumers concerned with socio-environmental dilemmas. To such end, political networks are formed in which take part corporations, traditional populations, universities, research institutes and foundations, extractive producer cooperatives, the public power, etc., as pointed out by Jodival Mauricio da Costa and Edilene Lira (2019). One of the problems of that political network is the precariousness of the traditional populations of the CUs inserted in capitalist productive chains and the difficulty of empowering the social reproduction of different social groups.

Finally, the struggle of the traditional populations against the state, capitalist NGOs, hydroelectric and mining companies, farmers, illegal loggers, etc., persists. The result is the 493,183 records of conflicts in rural Amazonian areas in 2018 or 33.6% of the total conflicting land and water locations in Brazil. Hydroelectric companies, farmers, illegal loggers, mining companies and gridirons (illegal landowners) are the protagonists in conflicts with squatters, rubber tappers, extractive communities, riparian, quilombolas, indigenous peoples and landless communities.

It is naive to accept the ecological discourse of the State under Jair Bolsonaro addressed to international organizations and social movements. The state is at the service of the Amazonian capitalist consolidation geopolitics.

The refusal of Jair Bolsonaro’s government to support the theoretical formulation of the Triple Ecological Corridor A (the Andes, Atlantic, and Amazon) proposed by Colombian Martín von Hildebrand signals a departure of the country from South American and global socio-environmental commitments in the name of a supposed defense of Brazilian sovereignty in the Amazon.

The State and corporations are primarily responsible for socio-environmental liabilities in the Amazon through stimulating agribusiness to the detriment of food production by family farming. The challenges are multiple: 1) the strong presence of loggers, ranchers and capitalized agriculture in various divisions of the Amazon; 2) the discriminatory action of the National Congress Agribusiness Political Network against the interests of traditional populations; 3) the prohibition of demarcation of Indigenous Lands; 4) the conflicts surrounding the new Código Florestal Brasileiro (Brazilian Forest Code); 5) conflicts over the appropriation of mineral wealth in indigenous peoples’ territories in the face of the State sovereignty in the exploration of the subsoil; 6) land speculation, invasion of Conservation Units and illegal appropriation of land; 7) and the environmental impacts of major public works, notably hydroelectric plants and road opening.

The expansion of the speech supporting the so-called “green economy (market environmentalism)” reinforces the importance of the struggle for new anti-political policies that contemplate the right to the territory for the traditional indigenous and non-indigenous communities of the Brazilian Amazon.


More from Carlos Alberto Franco da Silva, “Regional Dynamics of the Brazilian Amazon: between Modernization and Land Conflicts”.


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