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Brazil | Deforestation of the Amazon Grew 59.5% During the Four Years of Bolsonaro’s Government

Data released on November 30, 2022 by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) shows that the Amazon continues to be deforested during the government of Jair Bolsonaro. Between August last year and July this year, 11,568 km² was destroyed, an area equivalent to the size of Qatar.

By: PSTU Brazil

Bolsonaro is a fierce enemy of the environment and an ally of the loggers, land grabbers, gold diggers, and landowners who have been responsible for the razing of our forests. According to the network of environmental entities, Climate Observatory, deforestation of the Amazon grew by 59.5% during the four years of Bolsonaro’s government. It is the highest percentage increase in a presidential term since satellite measurements began in 1988. Bolsonaro took office with a annual rate of 7,500 km² of deforestation in the Amazon and is leaving it with 11,500 km² destroyed this past year.

The data disclosed yesterday in the report issues by the PRODES Project (Measurement of Deforestation by Remote Sensing) in the Legal Amazon prepared by the INPE, an agency linked to the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MCTI), had been ready since November 3, but was only disclosed now in order to avoid sharing the extent of Brazilian forest destruction during the COP 27 UN Climate Conference held in Egypt in November.

The Transitional Government’s Stance on the Environment

At a press conference held yesterday, the Technical Group for the Environment for the Lula-Alckmin government’s transition cabinet said that the future government wants to end deforestation in the first three months of 2023 and recover Brazil’s leading role in environmental protection.

The former Minister of Environment, Carlos Minc (PSB/RJ), highlighted that the country’s environmental policy was obliterated during the Bolsonaro government and that, with Lula, “impunity is over.”

“There will be a strong and immediate reduction in deforestation already in the first quarter of Lula’s government. No more weaknesses and impunity,” he said. “The task is not small. Immediate measures include strengthening the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA). Second, we need to repeal [Bolsonaro’s] decrees, as some are those that prevent the application of fines. Others prevent the inspection of logging companies,” he said.

We know that Bolsonaro has damaged environmental policy by “letting things slide.” He encouraged illegal mining, did not combat illegal logging in the rainforest, and approved measures favorable to usurpers and landowners. The Amazon lived four consecutive years in flames.

This situation must be reversed. But this will not happen by eloquent speeches. Real action is needed. The first step is to confront the illegal land grabbers, who destroy the forests, persecute, and kill indigenous and riparian peoples. Is Lula willing to do this? Because that was not what we saw in the 14 years of PT governments.

In Lula’s first term alone (2003 to 2006), 86,468 km2 were deforested, which is twice the area of the State of Rio de Janeiro.

The big fires in the Amazon are the result of land grabs. And the PT governments acted decisively in favor of the region’s land grabbers. It was Lula, for example, who issued Law 11.952 in June 2009 that authorized the issuance of land titles for public areas of land up to 1,500 hectares in the Amazon that had breen illegally occupied and deforested until December 2004. Thus, more than 67 million hectares of public lands in the Amazon were transferred to land grabbers. Not by chance, at the time, the measure became known as “Lei da Grilhagem” [“Land Grabbing Law”].

Despite a strong mobilization of environmental activists, in 2007 Lula allowed for the use of GMOs, crowning numerous concessions he had already made to transnational transgenic seed producers since the beginning of his government. Since then, the use of pesticides has skyrocketed in the country.

We also cannot forget the construction of the Belo Monte Hydroelectric Power Plant, which only boosted the funds of the contractors and financed the electoral campaigns of the PT. This was nothing less than an electoral crime, which destroyed forested areas and evicted traditional communities from their ancestral lands in order to deliver the plant to private investment. This crime is a stain that will remain forever in the PT’s history.

Also noteworthy is the participation of Kátia Abreu, the “chainsaw queen,” in Dilma’s government, who is now in the transition government and a supporter of the PT government in the Matopiba region (an area formed by the states of Maranhão, Tocantins, Piauí and Bahia, where the new frontier of agribusiness has expanded). She has helped to destroy the environment, pollute water, and provoke more conflicts.

There are many activists who sincerely hope that a possible Lula government will put an end to the fires in the Amazon, prevent the theft of indigenous and quilombola communities’ territories, the advance of land grabbing, the environmental destruction caused by mining, and many other environmental crimes that are ongoing.

But we do not believe that this can happen, because it would mean a confrontation with agribusiness, mining companies and transnationals that plunder the natural resources of the country. And this was not done and will not be done by the PT government because, in essence, their project was, is and will continue to be the maintenance of the capitalist order and the conciliation of the classes with what they call the “progressive bourgeoisie.”

Against Ecological Barbarism: A Socialist Way Out!

Capitalist exploitation brutally degrades the environment and uses more resources than can naturally be restored, and it does all this not only to feed unnecessary consumerism, but because it is essential for the profit of large corporations. And this is pushing the planet to such environmental degradation that it puts into question humanity’s existence.

It is necessary to impose a form of economic development in accordance with the needs of the workers, the broader population, and the preservation of the environment. And, for that reason, it is fundamental that we confront the big transnational companies in order to defend the environment, organize workers in the countryside and in cities, the indigenous, quilombola and riparian communities in an independent way, and demand the following from the future Lula-Alckmin government.

– Expropriation of the logging companies that burn the Amazon;

– Imprisonment of illegal gold prospectors and land grabbers;

– Strengthening of environmental agencies, with full use of the budget, hiring of new teams for inspection activities, and preparation of a real contingency plan for forest loss;

– Creation of norms to reduce carbon emissions, with the expropriation of companies that violate them;

– Clean energy sources, such as wind power, to expand electricity generation with environmental preservation and not with monstrous works such as Belo Monte;

– Demarcation and register of all indigenous and quilombola lands;

– Increase of environmental preservation areas, with the strengthening of public oversight bodies and the incorporation of broader society in the control of these areas;

– Capitalism does not rhyme with environment! Only a socialist, egalitarian society without exploiters will be able to build a harmonious relationship with the environment!

Article published in www.pstu.org.br, 12/1/2022.

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