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This week, the BBC reported that heavily armed miners had invaded a remote indigenous reserve in the North of Brazil and stabbed one of its leaders to death. The tensions in the Amazon region have heightened after the Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, has stated that he is against the reserves and has vowed to open some of them to miners. He says the reserves are too large and his critics have accused him of encouraging the violence. He announced his intention to forcibly integrate indigenous peoples and said it was “a shame that the Brazilian cavalry wasn’t as efficient as the Americans, who exterminated the Indians”.
The news comes just days after The Guardian newspaper reported that deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon has surged above three football fields a minute, according to the Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (Inpe). Bolsonaro criticised the NGO for publishing the data saying that it “prejudices” the country complaining that he should be able to review the data before it is released so that he doesn’t get caught with his pants down. July was the first month for several years in which Brazil lost an area of forest bigger than Greater London.
According to The Guardian article, during a recent G20 meeting, Bolsonaro told the German chancellor Angela Merkel that she had no right to criticise because Brazil’s conservation record was superior to that of Europe’s. This is a dubious claim, according to Climate Observatory, which cites World Bank data that shows Germany has given protected status to a bigger share of its land than Brazil.
The ex-coordinator of the Brazilian Forum of Climate Change, Alfredo Sirkis, has said that President Bolsonaro is stimulating environmental crime, saying that Bolsonaro’s words are like viagra to those deforesting the Amazon. And this in the same week when the BBC reported that the speed and extent of current global warming exceeds any similar event in the past 2,000 years.
A petition to the UK Parliament is calling for the EU & UN to impose sanctions on Brazil unless it halts increased deforestation of the Amazon. It says: “The government of Brazil led by Bolsonaro favour the development of the Amazon rainforest over conservation, escalating deforestation. Deforestation threatens indigenous populations who live in the forest, loss of a precious and complex ecosystem and a vital carbon store that slows global warming. Indigenous people have called for the EU to impose trade sanctions on Brazil to halt the deforestation because they fear genocide. Also, the UK parliament has recognised a climate emergency. Since the Amazon rainforest is an important carbon store, absorbing huge volumes of CO2 each year, it’s deforestation is of global significance. The intrinsic value of the rainforest should also be recognised.
Trade sanctions are used elsewhere for important issues as an effective means to force action.”