The pandemic as a smoke screen in front of the exploitation of the Amazon

Brazil recorded its highest level of deaths on Wednesday in 24 hours since beginning of the pandemic, 633 dead, for a total which has just crossed the bar of 8000 in a country where COVID – 19 is no longer just a health crisis.

Under the leadership of populist Jair Bolsonaro, it is also becoming a “smokescreen” behind which is now hiding the ultra-conservative government of the Brazilian president, to continue its plan to reduce the rights of indigenous people in Brazil. '' Amazonia and justify the appropriation of their lands by the powerful agricultural and mining lobbies.

Last March, 253 km 2 of Amazon rainforest have been deforested by cutting or burning, according to data from the deforestation alert system (SAD) of the Instituto do Meio Ambiente e Homem da Amazônia (Imazon), based in Belém in the north of the country and which is based on satellite images recorded from 2008 in the Amazon region. This is a growth of 279% compared to the same period last year.

By a decree, the Brazilian government seeks to legitimize the appropriation of protected public lands, like those inhabited by the tribes of the First Nations for decades, denounce several groups defending the rights of the natives, and this, by considerably reducing the already limited power of FUNAI, the government agency responsible for indigenous affairs.

The land regulation measure aims to make the occupation of land illegally obtained by their new owners, including in indigenous reserves or in areas protected for environmental purposes, as legal as possible as quickly as possible. Brazilian parliamentarians have until 19 next May to adopt this decree, which the big farmers and breeders, miners and developers in the Amazon push them to do it quickly.

“The government continues its criminal behavior by neglecting the protection of the natives, summarized the indigenous leader Sônia Guajajara in the pages of Diário do Centro do Mundo (Center of the World Journal, literally) this week. “FUNAI has not been an indigenous organization for a long time,” she said. Today, he acts against people to serve the interests of the government. “

For Paulo Barreto, researcher at the NGO Imazon, this strengthening of Bolsonaro's policies in the Amazon is part of an upward trend since the populist came to power, a trend which then intensified that the eyes of the rest of the world are turned elsewhere because of the pandemic. “Jair Bolsonaro continues to weaken law enforcement in addition to launching direct attacks against the natives in his speeches which give a feeling of impunity to older children,” he said in a statement. And as the markets do not react with enough energy to exclude all these land thieves from supply chains, the practice of illegal occupation continues. “

Across the country, 49 federal prosecutors have been demanding for several weeks that the changes made to FUNAI operating rules to serve the interests of industrialists are canceled due to their unconstitutional nature. “The Amazon works like a stock exchange. What the leaders of the country say really influences the behavior of the people, said one of them, Daniel Azevedo, of Porto Velho, the capital of the state of Rondônia, quoted by The Guardian . “This sends the message that, if you are deforesting now, in 2020 or 2021, you will soon become the owner of this area. The consequence is that the forest will be heavily devastated over the next few years. “

Bolsonaro's rebellious attitude in the Amazon comes when the president is at a low point in the polls due to his chaotic management of the COVID pandemic – 19 in Brazil. The politician is currently losing his political support and seeks to reconnect with an electoral base which elected him by 2018 by supporting the vast majority his speech on the development of natural resources and the economic potential of the Amazon.

For Bolsonaro, it is not normal for the Brazilian natives to control 12, 5% of the territory currently demarcated as their ancestral lands. A perspective that appeals to the “gauchos”, these white people from the south of the country, often conservative, who seek to make money in the Amazon and who strongly support the elected officials who clear their path.

The peoples of the Amazon ask for aid of 5 million

The indigenous peoples of Amazonia called on Wednesday the international community to constitute an “emergency fund” of 5 million dollars to protect them from the coronavirus and avoid an “ethnocide” of the guardians of the largest tropical forest on the planet. “As indigenous peoples, we are in danger of extinction,” said José Gregorio Diaz, Venezuelan leader of the Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (Coica), bringing together Amerindians from the nine countries sharing this region. During a virtual press conference, he specified that “only 5 million dollars” was necessary to constitute an “emergency fund for the Amazon”, in order to help “directly” more than 3000 indigenous communities, deprived of the risk of contagion. “If we continue to wait for [une intervention de] the state, we will die, and we don't want to disappear,” he said.

France Media Agency