the environmental tragedy

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By LUIZ BERNARDO PERICAS

A balance of the action in the environment of the Bolsonaro government

Since the first day of his mandate, President Jair M. Bolsonaro has been committed to destroying everything that was institutionally built since the end of the military dictatorship, in the fields of education, culture, international relations, human rights and customs. The environment, of course, has always been the target of predatory exploitation and all kinds of vested interests, national and foreign, but the situation has become dramatic today.

After all, now Brazilian biodiversity is among the main targets of the Planalto Palace's annihilating rage. The present administration has put in motion one of the most harmful and destructive policies in relation to nature, implementing measures that have been aimed at eliminating forests, dismantling monitoring and inspection bodies and supporting illegal activities, such as rapacious logging, mining in indigenous reserves and burning.

The results of the retired captain's attitudes have been appalling. There was a 34% increase in deforestation in the Amazon in July 2020, compared to August last year. In June alone, according to the National Institute for Space Research, 2.248 fires had been found in that biome, the highest incidence since 2007 (representing an increase of 19,5% in relation to the same month of the previous year) and 1.034 square kilometers of deforested forest areas, a 25% increase compared to 2019, according to the Real Time Deforestation Detection system (Deter), in addition to identifying 44.013 fires in eight months (29.307 of which in August , or 66,5% of the total).

In the North region, the champion states in fires are Pará, Acre and Amazonas. The latter, in Inpe's assessment, accumulates, since 1988, 29.972 km2 of deforested area, and since 2016, more than a thousand square kilometers eliminated annually (in 2019, 1.434 kmXNUMX were destroyed2 forest in the state, the largest area in 16 years).

Although deforestation in the Amazon increased in 418 municipalities in 2019, the government claims that the Armed Forces operation, “Verde Brasil”, from May to August 2020, carried out 26 naval and land inspections, seized more than 600 irregular vessels and 800 mobile sawmill machines, imposed more than R$500 million in fines and confiscated 28,7 cubic meters of illegal wood. A newspaper article The State of São Paulo, however, it showed that, in fact, the numbers of this diligence were inflated by the authorities.

In the Pantanal, in turn, there was a 220% increase in the number of fire outbreaks up to August 31 compared to 2019, the equivalent of 10.153 heat points. At least two million hectares have already been destroyed in Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul, corresponding to 12% of the total area of ​​that biome.

Despite this, Ibama could lose up to 20% of its budget in 2021. It does not hurt to remember that in 2020, this body has only R$ 1,75 billion for all its expenses, suffering a reduction of 14,8% compared to to 2019. While a decade ago the municipality had 1.311 inspectors, that number reached the derisory figure of 591 agents today. The amount of fines has also decreased sharply, 54% less from January to May 2020 compared to the same period last year.

The activists who fight the excesses and irresponsibility of this administration, in turn, have been the constant target of attacks and aggressions. The lives of environmental activists have been continuously at risk since Bolsonaro came to power. The fact is that the attack against environmentalist militants has increased, especially because of the feeling of impunity on the part of criminals.

According to the most recent report by Global Witness, entitled “Defending Tomorrow”, 148 people were murdered in Latin America in 2019 while fighting for environmental causes (including leaders of social movements and human rights defenders), 24 of them in Brazil (10 of which are indigenous), of which 90% in Amazon region. Most of the homicides were perpetrated by sectors linked to mining, logging and agribusiness.

In this sense, the Minister of the Environment Ricardo Salles can be seen as one of the main responsible for the government's disastrous policy in this area. In April, he dismissed a director and two inspection coordinators from IBAMA after operations that took place in Altamira (Pará) against land grabbers and prospectors in indigenous territories of the Apyterewa, Trincheira Bacajá and Kayapó (Volta Grande do Xingu region), where 100 machines used to deforestation were destroyed.

In addition, Salles removed ICMBio superintendents in 21 states from their positions shortly after taking over, disrupting the body's chain of command; reduced the number of hours the servers work in the field; stopped using R$ 1,6 billion to combat deforestation; extinguished the technical and advisory committees of the Amazon Fund (a donation from the governments of Germany and Norway of R$ 33 million to this fund, which was intended to be used for inspection actions in the forest, remained untouched by the BNDES; in fact, the amount earmarked specifically for inspection against fires and reduction of vegetation cover in 2020 is BRL 76,1 million and practically all of it was spent in the first half); criticized satellite fire monitoring systems; defended the departure of the director of Inpe, Ricardo Galvão; encouraged the use of FFAA in GLO Operations in the forest (which cost more than R$ 124 million in two months of activities); reduced the participation of civil society in the National Council for the Environment (Conama), with 80% of the positions occupied by members of the government; adopted a “gag law” at Ibama, reducing transparency, censoring employees, creating obstacles to the dissemination of information and determining that questions from journalists be forwarded directly to the MMA communication office; removed the maps of priority areas for biodiversity conservation from the official government websites; transferred to the Ministry of Agriculture the power to grant public forests for timber production and forest services; and extinguished the Secretariat for Climate Change and Forests.

For all these reasons, a group of 12 MPF attorneys pointed out, in July, 14 acts that would have constituted administrative impropriety in the management of environmental policies, requesting, for this reason, his removal from office. In the meantime, the vice-president, general Hamilton Mourão, recurrently minimizes the ecological damage and went so far as to say in an interview, at the end of August (when INPE announced that there were 24 fires in the Amazon), that the devastation in the region , in fact, it was just “a needle in a haystack”.

The admissions to hospitals of indigenous people and residents of urban areas close to the fires due to respiratory problems do not seem to sensitize the authorities. Nor the advance of the new coronavirus in many villages, which represents a true genocide of the original peoples and which is also responsible for the Minister of Health, Eduardo Pazuello.

Despite all this, Bolsonaro has dehydrated the fines where deforestation grows. In 2019, in 234 municipalities, assessments for environmental crimes decreased, a dynamic that was accentuated in 2020. This means that Ibama penalized 40% less from January to July this year than in the same period of 2019 (which represents, in the practice, the lowest amount of fines in the last ten years).

The most significant reduction in charges was in Pará, at the same time that there was an increase in the deforesting of 108 municipalities in that state compared to the previous year. In Água Azul do Norte, for example, where the Xikrin do Cateté indigenous reserve is located (the most affected by Covid-19 in that federation unit and where the levels of contamination by lead, iron, copper, nickel and chromium of the river that crosses that community, resulting from the mining waste dumped by the company Onça Puma, owned by Vale), no fine was imposed, even though deforestation in that territory has grown by 9,7%.

It does not hurt to remember that Ibama in Pará already had three leaders (two superintendents were exonerated), all of them military, in practice, “interveners” who are not specialists in the subject, who reprimand servants and who recurrently create obstacles for the efficient work of the body . Of the nine states in the Legal Amazon, seven of them had fines reduced in Bolsonaro's first year in power. In addition, the current administration has already certified more than 250 hectares of farms in indigenous lands in the Amazon (Mato Grosso, Pará and Maranhão).

In "live” weekly, on September 3, the president, giving little importance to the fires, went so far as to say that he wanted to “kill NGOs in the Amazon” and that the increase in indigenous and quilombola areas would be harmful to agribusiness. Not to mention Minister Ricardo Salles, who had already defended greater participation by the private sector in the different biomes of the country. For him, the government's role should be to "not disturb".

Finally, General Mourão, who in August expressed interest in attracting investment from China, Russia and India to the Brazilian part of the “lung of the world”. In other words, for him, it would be necessary to attract capital from the BRICS to projects in the Amazon. Because of this clear line of action by the government, the BNDES is evaluating a model for granting forests to the private sector, in addition to parks such as Lençóis Maranhenses, Jericoacoara and Iguaçu. There is also the intention to institute a regulation for carbon credits.

To complete, the lack of a clear and firm State policy in relation to this ecosystem has led large banks (such as Itaú, Bradesco and Santander) to create an advisory board on the Amazon made up of seven members, which should analyze projects in progress and propose plans for the region, not to mention the recent creation of a supposed “alliance” between businessmen, executives, military, economists and politicians called “Concertation for the Amazon”, with the aim of proposing alternatives to the environmental issue. It is the great national and foreign private capital deciding what to do with our territory, with the complacency of the authorities in Brasilia.

The country is in the hands of a rapacious bourgeoisie that has never had an interest in its people (but only in plundering its wealth and remitting the profits abroad) and is governed by a prejudiced, denialist, racist and authoritarian individual, a representative of the lumpesinato and militias, without any political or intellectual preparation, allied with loggers, land grabbers, miners and agribusiness. The current situation is the most serious in decades. It is hoped that Bolsonaro, Pazuello, Salles and the rest of the gang in power will, at some point, be tried and, if possible, arrested for all their crimes.

* Luiz Bernardo Pericas He is a professor in the Department of History at USP. Author, among other books, of Caio Prado Júnior: a political biography (Boitempo).

 

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