“All of the promises made to political groups and the people will be kept,” said a victorious Jair Bolsonaro, the new President of Brazil, after his election victory earlier this week.
For many people who have watched in horror at the election of Trump, Bolsonaro is a new kind of evil who has exported the worst excesses of Trump-style nationalism and reactionary politics and merged them with a pro-military, openly fascist, background. Even for these dark days, it does not bode well.
He is, in the words of one commentator, “openly hostile to democracy and will probably be the most extremist elected leader in the world … The result spells disaster, not only for Brazil but for the planet.”
Here is a despot, who according to the Intercept, is unashamedly “pro-dictatorship, torture, extrajudicial police killings, and violence against LGBTQ people, Afro-Brazilians, women, indigenous people, minorities, and political opponents, as well as his opposition to democratic norms and values.” For those who think these are just words, his supporters carved a swastika into the skin of a 19-year-old woman carrying an LGBT flag during the election.
He is also a man who will replicate many of the policies of Trump’s nationalism and anti-environmentalism. “Trump is an example to me … and in many ways to Brazil,” Bolsonaro has said. There are so many reasons to oppose a Bolsonaro Presidency right there, but for people who care about the climate, the Amazon and for indigenous rights, his election means deep trouble. If he keeps to his promises to open up the Amazon and trample on indigenous rights, what happens in Brazil will impact us all.
First of all watch out any NGO’s working in Brazil. Speaking earlier this month, he said: “You will not have any more NGOs to quench your leftist hunger. It will be a cleansing never before seen in the history of Brazil.” It is not just Brazil-based NGOs that could be in trouble. Bolsonaro has promised to ban international NGOs such as Greenpeace and WWF from the country.
Bolsonaro has sworn to scrap environmental laws in the country, including potentially pulling out of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, open up the Amazon to large-scale destruction by ranchers, drillers and miners and confiscate Indigenous reserves in the country.
He has been quoted as saying: “Minorities have to adapt to the majority or simply disappear.” Under a Bolsonaro administration, “not one square centimeter” of Brazil will be reserved for the country’s original indigenous inhabitants. Since being elected, Bolsonaro has said that groups such as the Landless Worker’s Movement (MST) and the Homeless Workers’ Movement (MTST) should also be classed as “terrorists”.
Those fighting for environmental protection or indigenous rights in Brazil need our support and they need it now. We need to help them fight what could become super-charged destruction fuelled by endemic cronyism. As CBC noted: “Bolsonaro’s policies on Indigenous people are driven largely by his supporters in Brazil’s powerful cattle-ranching and soybean industries.”
To appease his paymasters, Bolsonaro has promised to merge the country’s environmental ministry with the agricultural one, with a view to fast-tracking large-scale agricultural expansion.
One recent study examined what a Bolsonaro Presidency could mean:
“If environmental protections are removed by Brazil’s next president, the average annual loss of primary forest in the Amazon will quickly rise to 25,600 square kilometers (9,884 square miles) per year … Within a decade, the scale of deforestation would be equivalent to the area of the UK or the US state of Oregon. Moreover, 18 percent of this deforestation (46,300 square kilometers or 17,877 square miles) would occur inside protected areas, including national parks and indigenous reserves.”
People who have worked on protecting the Amazon for years have watched his election with horror. Amazon Watch Program Director Christian Poirier argues: “His reckless plans to industrialize the Amazon in concert with Brazilian and international agribusiness and mining sectors will bring untold destruction to the planet’s largest rainforest and the communities who call it home, and spell disaster for the global climate.”
The good news is that resistance to Brazil’s new despotic dictator has already started. In a statement, the Coordination of Indigenous Organizations from the Brazilian Amazon (COIAB) stated its commitment “to the movement fighting fascism and the elimination of rights, because we believe that this is the only means of defeating the hate preached by the extreme-right candidate, and because we understand that only a thinking that assembles all Brazilian citizens, regardless of race, color, creed, or sexual orientation, can overcome fascism.”
In an interview with the Guardian, the MTST leader, Guilherme Boulos, one of those recently described as a terrorist by Bolsonaro, was defiant: “My message is: ‘Resist!’ There is no reason to be afraid. We must show courage and serenity and remember that the defense of democracy is always the right side of history. There will be resistance, there will be opposition, there will be street mobilizations. Our voices will not be silenced.”