The fires in Amazonia acquired a global dimension. Mobilizations of the youth, workers, intellectuals, artists, scientists, and thousands of people spread through social media and took the streets of several Brazilian cities and all over the world.
Jeferson Choma – PSTU Brazil
Pushed by the wave of protests, Bolsonaro made a statement on national TV network promising to fight the fires with the help of the military. He heard panelaços from north to south of the country. There is no reason to believe in the words of this government that recently legalized a large list of agrochemicals for extensive use, many of them banned worldwide. A government that encourages large farmers, miners, and loggers to invade indigenous lands and Conservation Units.
Not by chance, a group of farmers, loggers and land grabbers promoted the “day on fire” in the freeway BR-163 to show support for Bolsonaro’s policy of loosening Ibama’s inspection operations in Amazonia. How to believe in a government that substituted an American company for the respected National Institute of Space Research (Inpe) to monitor fires? It’s a president that definitely can’t be taken seriously when he leaves only three Ibama officials to inspect Altamira’s area, the country’s top deforesting city, or that even says that preserving the environment “is a vegan thing.” Soon after Bolsonaro received the governors of the Amazon states and said almost nothing about the fires. He only claimed his commitment of not demarcating any indigenous land. Therefore, his promises are as false as the Statues of Liberty outside the Havan Stores.
Bolsonaro and the military: Trump’s lackeys
And the worst part is that Bolsonaro’s bravados were accompanied by the bluffs of his generals. General Villas Bôas, for example, wrote on a social network that France does not have “moral authority” to deal with the matter, and spoke about “threats of military deployment” based on what the French president said.
Now, the military are accomplices of Bolsonaro’s selling-out. They are part of the clearing of all oversight bodies, such as Ibama and the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio). It is enough to remember that the Minister of the Institutional Security Cabinet (GSI), General Augusto Heleno, criticized the Inpe for reporting an increase of more than 80% in Amazonia deforestation only this year. He said, “it would be convenient for us not to boast that.” There was even a general from the government team who said: “In my day there was no Ibama to piss off.”
But it is necessary to make a correction. The military are not only complicit in the destruction and delivery of the Amazon to the United States. They were architects of all this. The military dictatorship [1964-1985] presented a new vision to exploit the region and was responsible for the Amazonia internationalization.
The dictatorship reinforced Brazil’s submission role in the imperialist system. The military built highways and opened access to natural resources in the region to national and international economic groups. Mining provinces, such as the Serra dos Carajás, were disclosed to large national and foreign economic groups, such as the US Steel, the large American mining company. They contracted an aerial photography survey from a US company, whose data went to the hands of the US Steel, which “discovered” Carajás, the largest mineral province on the planet at the time.
They waited with arms wide open the American billionaire Daniel Keith Ludwig, a maniac who won an area of the size of Sergipe state (around 22,000 km2), at Amapá/Pará border. Thus, Ludwig took over an area with 290 million tons of bauxite. “When the ’64 coup occurs, the first president of the dictatorship, Castelo Branco, calls him and says: ‘You may come because Brazil is a safe country now,’” recalls the professor at the Federal University of Pará, Gilberto Marques, in an interview to the Opinião News [in Portuguese] ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kEQhITInKU0&t=27s ).
Therefore, the military do not have any “moral authority” to speak in defense of Amazonia or national sovereignty. They are not more than members of a lackey government of Trump that salute the US national flag.
Macron is also an imperialist ruler
Before the G7 meeting, the president of France, Emmanuel Macron, said on TV that Amazonia is a “common good,” and called for the mobilization of the central countries of capitalism against the clearings. The French politician evoked the old speech on the “Amazonia internationalization” that has been repeated for years in the diplomatic milieu and in the mainstream world press.
At the G7 meeting, the countries that lead world capitalism said they agree to “help” in the fight against the fires in Amazonia. They are like vultures that fly over the carrion.
In the past, the former vice president of the United States, Al Gore; the former president of France, François Mitterrand; and Henry Kissinger, old wolf of US imperialism and former advisor to several US president, made statements similar to Macron’s on the need for Brazil to “accept relative sovereignty over Amazonia.”
This type of statement deserves rejection; it is an interference in our sovereignty that evokes the myth of internationalization to hide a strong colonial desire of imperialist nations to appropriate Amazonia’s natural resources.
It is also of titanic hypocrisy as if the central countries of capitalism had nothing to do with the destruction of the Amazon Rainforest. If Amazonia’s history is the history of the looting and genocide of its people, it should be remembered that this was done by large foreign companies associated with the national capital and the Brazilian state.
Macron’s France, it is worth remembering, still holds a colony in the Amazon, the French Guiana, a territory with huge gold reserves, ready to be exploited.
Bolsonaro said Macron has a “colonialist mentality,” as if his allies like Trump or Israeli officials didn’t have it. But he also attacks indigenous peoples and quilombolas while revealing his colonial mentality when he said that he wants the United States to take part in a joint development program for Amazonia. “When I met Trump a few days ago I told him that I want to open the Amazon region to be exploited in association with the US,” said the colonized mind last April 8.
Currently, there are 52,974 mining areas in the Amazon covering an area of 1.6 million square kilometers. Most of these areas are waiting for approval (50.8%). Around 80% of these areas are in Brazilian territory.
Foreign capital exploits most of the mineral resources, with devastating consequences for the environment and the population. An example is Hydro Alunorte, in Barcarena (Pará), a Norwegian company that spills bauxite waste clandestinely in the rivers and igarapés of the region. In February 2018, the Evandro Chagas Institute (IEC) confirmed the contamination in various areas of Barcarena, caused by the clandestine spills. Remind that Norway, which owns Hydro Alunorte, is the same country that finances the so-called Amazon Fund.
Mining plans are followed by energy expansion plans on the Amazonia rivers. The works are funded by public money and are intended to expand mining prospecting and exploitation in the region in the coming years. The case of Belo Monte is very exemplary of the terrible socio-environmental effects of such projects. Planned by the military dictatorship and built during the PT governments, the hydroelectric power plant resulted in the expulsion of peasant and indigenous communities, in the super-exploitation of workers, while Altamira became the most violent Brazilian city.
It is also estimated that 71 oil companies are settled in the South American Amazon, mainly the large international corporations. The privatization of Petrobras, intended by Bolsonaro, will allow foreign oil companies to seize all the oil and gas in the Amazon subsoil.
Double imperialist policy for the Amazon
But the Amazon is not only an immense jungle and an immense river basin. It also has a heritage of knowledge little studied and known. It is estimated that the jungle concentrates 15% of the species on Earth. The imperialist nations know the importance of this enormous wealth. They know that they are like books not yet read, and that is why they are not in favor of converting it entirely into coal and grass, as Bolsonaro and his allies claim.
The central countries of the capitalist system developed strategies to appropriate the genetic resources of the rainforests. Areas of great biodiversity would be subject to the protection of imperialism to serve as a store of value, germplasm banks (genetic material for immediate or future use), at the service of the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industry. That is why Norway and Germany, for example, fund the Amazon Fund. For the same reason, a good part of Brazil’s environmental preservation policies in recent years were funded by the Pilot Program to Conserve the Brazilian Rain Forests (PPG-7), considered as one of the most influential programs regarding the formulation of public policies for the environmental conservation in the country.
In Amazonia, strategies are developed to obtain genetic information, including ethno biopiracy, that is, the illegal appropriation of systematized knowledge of indigenous peoples and traditional peasant communities. The geographer Carlos Walter Porto Gonçalves explains this process of creating what he calls “genetic estates,” promoted by the theft of traditional knowledge: “It is not the plant or the animal that is simply taken away, but the information built by a certain people through their culture. Thus, to speak of biopiracy is to forget the probable rights of the peoples that traditionally wove their knowledge in an intimate relationship with ecosystems.” (A globalização da natureza e a natureza da globalização, p. 317).
This policy is associated with the social-liberal solution of the so-called green economy, proposed by people like Marina Silva [former Minister of the Environment in Lula’s government (PT)] and the Globo TV Network. It is an environmental policy marked by the commodification of the resources of the jungle and that exalts market solutions to supposedly save the environment. Examples of this policy are the concession of public forests for the private sector, the “sustainable” certification of products such as tropical rainforest timber and the implementation of the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) program, which only serves the interests of financial capital.
Unfortunately, a part of the NGOs serves that objective and are funded by these programs. But it must be remembered that not all NGOs that operate in the Amazon act in this way. Many of them organize peasant and indigenous communities to fight for their territories.
To sum up, there is a double strategy carried out by imperialism in the Amazon: On the one hand it exploits the mineral and oil resources of the region, backed by local governments, on the other it defends the “conservation” of some areas as germplasm banks, aiming at the future exploitation of natural resources. Seizing all those natural resources is what lies behind the misrepresented story about “internationalization of the Amazon.”
The largest jungle on the planet will not stop being threatened, and Brazil and the world will not be free from the possibility and imminence of an environmental catastrophe, as long as we do not overcome the capitalist system that destroys the Amazon and converts its resources into commodities and its territory into private property. We need a socialist society where all biodiversity and the traditional knowledge of the forest peoples are at the service of the common good of humanity. A society that is not focused on the profit and capital accumulation by a handful of billionaires, such as landowners, bankers, and miners.
 Panelaço: typical protest in South America where people hit pans and other sounding objects outside their homes when an undesirable politician speaks on TV.
 Ibama: Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources
 Altamira: city in the Amazon area (Pará state), with an area of 161,446 square kilometers (62,335 square miles) and 109,938 inhabitants (2016).
 Home appliances, electronics and decoration dealers with replicas of the statue at their entrances.
 Slaves descendants who struggle to keep their land.