Tuesday, August 27, 2019
Brazilians have hit the streets in outrage against the Amazon fires.
Dozens of marches and rallies in recent days.
Sao Paulo. Rio de Janeiro. Thousands in the streets.
Florianopolis, in Southern Brazil, is almost as far as you could get from the Amazon and still be in the country. And here, too people are livid and upset.
Ingrid Assis, is an indigenous labor leader, who was born in Manaus, the capital of the state of Amazonas.
Ingrid Assis, indigenous labor leader
“We feel like we are dying inside and we can’t let this feeling consume us, because we have to fight and we have to bring more people into the streets, because of all of these attacks.”
They blame far-right president Jair Bolsonaro for the widespread fires and his failure to stop them. Bolsonaro has promised to open up the Amazon for development. They say his rhetoric coupled with his government’s cuts to environmental agencies spurred farmers, loggers, and land grabbers to action.
More than 74,000 fires have blazed since the beginning of the year — 84% more than last year. Roughly a third of the fires across the Amazon have been on protected land.
“They are lighting those places on fire, where they have been deforested. And those places have been deforested, because they don’t have oversight and inspections from Ibama, because our companions in Ibama are being persecuting and transferred.”
Environment Minister Ricardo Salles oversaw a massive 25% funding cut to the country’s environmental protection agency Ibama earlier this year. According to recent reports, Ibama received word that landowners were going to start massive blazes across the region, on August 10. Ibama requested support from the Ministry of Justice. Nothing was done.
Evelin Gonçalves, Professor
What is happening right now in our country is a indescribable crime. We can’t allow it to continue. We have to do something. We have to find a way to protect our forests, protect our indigenous communities. To maintain the minimum of what we have.”
On Monday, people also marched on the Brazilian embassy in Washington to demand action to stop the blazes.
After nearly two weeks of reticence, and on the heels of pressure by the EU, Bolsonaro finally ordered 44,000 troops to combat the fires. According to the Ministry of Defense, they began operations on Saturday.
But the fires continue, and so does the fight to protect the Amazon.
Eliara Antunes, Indigenous leader, Morro dos Cavalos
“I’m very realistic and I expect a lot of struggle. Tjis is the first year of the president and look at everything that has happened. We expect a lot of support. But we aren’t just waiting for others. We have to hit the streets, hold hands. We breath the same air. When it runs out for me, it runs out for everyone”