This is not just another of the many attacks carried out in recent years. It is a fatal attack attempt. While the press and social networks echoed the resignation of the Minister against the Environment, Ricardo Salles, the Constitution, Justice and Citizenship Commission of the Chamber of Deputies approved by 40 votes to 21 Bill 490/2007 . This bill, as it is written today, is the greatest attack on the Amazon rainforest and indigenous peoples, articulated by Jair Bolsonaro and his cronies, such as members of the center, a coalition of parties without a program or ideology that supports the president in exchange for positions and budget items. If Congress passes the bill and it becomes law, the jungle will reach a point of no return.
The resignation of Salles is a victory for those who want the forest standing, but the former minister was just a luxury courier from Bolsonaro who did the dirty work for the Minister of Agriculture, Tereza Cristina, so that she can pretend to promote an agribusiness ” modern ”. A version of the cliché “good cop, bad cop” from Hollywood movies. Salles leaves, but the “poison muse” remains, firm as a pole. She and everything she represents have been damaging the environment long before Bolsonaro’s government and will possibly continue to do so after its end.
The attack on the Amazon and its peoples is organized. The commission approved the bill the same day that Salles formally resigned from the government in the Official diary. Although it was a bigger story, it was either relegated or did not appear at all. Bill 490 is the largest offensive against the Amazon and its peoples, an offensive that did not begin with Bolsonaro or with the parliamentarians linked to him, but which has only reached this far because it is Bolsonaro who is in power. As the largest rainforest in the world is the great regulator of the climate, what is happening now in the Brazilian Congress threatens the entire planet. In the first two years of the Bolsonaro government, deforestation of the jungle increased by almost 48% in the protected areas of the Amazon, according to a study by the Socioenvironmental Institute.
If the Amazon stops being what it is – a great regulator of the climate – it will be very difficult, perhaps impossible, to control global overheating. For this reason alone, international investment in Brazil is plummeting: not even the most staunch capitalist wants to be identified with the collapse of life on Earth.
Words are lacking to name humans capable of putting their own species at risk. We will have to find them. Bill 490 is a fatal attack, carried out on a region already extremely weakened by all the “cattle” that Ricardo Salles ushered in on Bolsonaro’s orders. “Pass all the cattle” is an expression that the minister himself used in a meeting of the Executive with the sense of repealing as many environmental laws as possible at once. Salles weakened inspections, encouraged encroachment on public lands – even those formally protected by law – and encouraged predators: public land thieves, loggers and miners who form Bolsonaro’s base of support in the Amazon. To close the list, it is essential to also mention the attack on indigenous peoples, the refusal to demarcate their lands as determined by the Constitution and, finally, having allowed COVID-19 to enter indigenous lands, a process already denounced as genocide. The resistance of the indigenous people against their own extinction has kept the forest standing until today. And the demarcation of their ancestral lands, determined by the 1988 Constitution, has been the main responsible for guaranteeing the survival of the jungle. Around indigenous lands and conservation areas, “the cattle” have already passed.
It is hard, very hard, explaining to people paid — and very well paid — with public money that it would be wise not to try to exterminate the species. But this is the situation we find ourselves in: suggesting to your Excellencies that they suspend their fanaticism and greed for a few hours and study at least a little. Suggesting to your Excellencies that you please do not wipe humans off the planet with your actions. The problem is that, since greed encourages them to keep the brain free from the influence of neurons, they prefer to repeat that the climate collapse is a “Marxist plot”, as did the man who ruined Brazilian diplomacy. Representatives Bia Kicis and Carla Zambelli and all the gentlemen around them: realize that even amoebas have an instinct for survival.
Bill 490 is authored by a deceased ruralista deputy and has been pending in Congress since 2007. The proposal joins at least 13 other projects or misdeeds against native peoples, which alter the Indigenous Statute and update the text of Constitutional Amendment Proposal 215, one of the greatest threats to indigenous rights ever produced by Congress.
It is easy to perceive that, if approved, the project will totally repeal indigenous rights and legally allow the predatory exploitation of the Amazon rainforest and other biomes. If when the constitutional rights of native peoples are respected — at least formally — and mining or predatory exploitation is not allowed on their lands, more than a million hectares are cleared in the Amazon in one year, as happened in 2020, imagine what that can occur in a year of full and legally authorized entertainment. With mining exploitation prohibited, only in the Yanomami indigenous land there are some 20,000 miners devastating the jungle, some of them under the command of the First Capital Command (PCC), one of the largest factions of organized crime in Brazil. For anyone with more than two neurons and minimal self-preservation and love for their own children (or nephews), the intent of the bill is self-explanatory and the magnitude of the impact is ridiculously obvious.
But there it is. Risking of catching and dying from covid-19, hundreds of indigenous people from different towns protested in Brasilia and were greeted with tear gas bombs. The only indigenous deputy, Joênia Wapichana, from the Sustainability Network party, was constantly interrupted and prevented from speaking by the president of the commission, Bolsonarista Bia Kicis. The voting session on Wednesday June 23rd was a spectacle of horror, stupidity and outright racism. Shame is little.
Indigenous lands belong to the State, but they are of permanent and exclusive usufruct of the original peoples. When Congress tries to load the Constitution, that affects the rights of all Brazilian women and all Brazilians. The objective is to remove these lands from the public domain, the common good, and put them in the hands of speculators, to obtain private benefits. We already know this plot well. This time, as the Amazon will be severely affected, the entire fight against climate collapse and the sixth mass extinction of species will be compromised, making the bill a topic of concern to the world community. The catastrophe that is looming is planetary, and there is no exaggeration in this statement.
Being forced to get rid of Ricardo Salles, perhaps his most beloved minister, makes Bolsonaro suffer. It is a great defeat. Salles served him faithfully and left a precious legacy to Bolsonaro, who was elected promising to allow (even more) predatory exploitation in the Amazon and strictly fulfilled his campaign promise. Here is the record of services provided by Salles, listed by the Climate Observatory: “two years of growing deforestation, two successive records of fires in the Amazon, 26% of the Pantanal charred, inaction in the face of the largest oil spill in the history of Brazil, growing carbon emissions and the international image of the country on the ground. Not to say that it only destroyed, Salles added an expression to the Brazilian Portuguese lexicon: herd [ganado], as a synonym for environmental destruction ”.
Salles has only been formally ousted because Bolsonaro himself is too cornered by the evidence of his responsibility in the death of more than half a million Brazilians from covid-19. Salles left the government through the back door on the same day that the investigations into the suspicious purchase of the Covaxin vaccine reached the name of Bolsonaro in the Parliamentary Commission for the Investigation of the Pandemic. The Brazilian president has never been so cornered. And he feels it. When Bolsonaro feels it, he makes others bleed. I have already warned in this space – and I do so once again – that each day that Bolsonaro spends in power is another day of horrors, especially where it is more difficult for the press to reach, as in the deep jungle. In the same way that Congress rushes to approve the evils, Bolsonaro’s base in the Amazon invades, loots, burns and kills. It is necessary that a impeachment o Brazil will unravel in the most tragic way.
Eliane Brum She is a writer, reporter and documentarian.
Translation of Meritxell Almarza
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