In 1992, leaders of many countries gathered in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, to discuss mutual post-Cold War cooperation for international development. Environmental issues were the main topic.
In his speech at that meeting, Fidel Castro warned about the destruction of the Amazon forest. Fidel pointed out that a society based on consumerism is the fundamental culprit, and that it is geared by the old colonial metropolis and the imperialist policies that generated the poverty and underdevelopment that assails the vast majority of humankind. He also questioned what — without the supposed threat of communism and therefore without the pretext for the cold war — what is impeding the rich and developed nations from investing all the resources spent on weapons, to be spent instead on the development of the Third World, with policies that will end hunger, poverty and the ecological destruction of the planet?
The recent fires in the Brazilian part of the Amazon forest are just the latest and biggest blow to the “Green Giant.” After seeing video footage on TV, on social media and on various websites across the globe, people from all parts of the earth have reacted.
All are wondering, how could this be happening on such a large scale? Who is behind it? Why has the Brazilian government been silent about the Amazon rainforest fires since late July and not doing anything concrete to extinguish them?
The silence is due to the government’s, although indirect, participation in it. During his presidential campaign, Jair Bolsonaro spoke many times about the necessity to deregulate, loosen and/or simply end many of the laws and regulations that hindered the exploitation of the Amazon.
To the second question, the answer is that it simply does not want to. It wants to let the rainforest burn as much as possible because that is the wish of the big bosses of the agro, meat and mineral businesses. Brazil is the world’s largest exporter of beef, soybeans, coffee and sugar. It is also one of the biggest exporters of minerals in their natural form.
In a capitalist economy, such rich and powerful industries gain a lot of control over policymaking decisions. Brazil is no different.
With all the money they have, the agro-cattle business developed the most powerful lobby in the history of the Brazilian Congress: the Rural Lobby or Bancada Ruralista in Portuguese. Among the main goals of the Rural Lobby are the forgiveness of the debts incurred by the farmers, the expansion of arable lands and the end of demarcation of Indigenous people`s land, as it consists of one of the main obstacles to the expansion of their business.
The Parliamentary Agricultural Front (FPA) has around 40 percent of the representatives in its ranks fighting for the interests of the big landowners and big agribusiness. These bosses will go to any lengths or take any measures to achieve their goals, even killing people or burning an area larger than many countries. Nothing is approved, or done, in the Brazilian Congress without the consent of the Rural Lobby.
Former President Dilma Roussef would not have been deposed on bogus infraction charges and Lula would not have been arrested on trumped up charges without the support of this lobby. Also, Bolsonaro would not have been elected, or would not still be in the presidential palace. This explains his silence and inertia in regards to the fire that has been consuming one of the greatest wonders of this planet and the habitat of a wide variety of living species.
With five million square kilometers, the Amazon forest encompasses an area larger than the European Union and that takes up more than half of the Brazilian territory. Home of twenty-five million inhabitants, one fifth of Earth’s plants and animals, and approximately three hundred and ninety billion trees, the Amazon has been under attack since the first colonizer set foot on its soil.
Amazon deforestation — with the use of chain saws or fire — is nothing new to the Indigenous and local people. The Indigenous tribes, on top of dealing with the invasion of their land and the murder of their people, now have also to fight against the pressure exerted on the authorities to end the demarcation of their land, thus opening the doors even more to the landowners and their goons. Without any representation in the congress, their pleas are heard by only a few.
The deforestation of the Amazon took a dive for ten years during the administration of former President Lula Da Silva and Dilma Roussef but rose again during the second term of the latter, which coincided with the growth of the Rural Lobby, which elected around 44 percent of the congress.
In 2016, the deforestation had its greatest increase ever with a 29 percent rise. This was right after the coup that ousted Dilma Roussef, replacing her with Michel Temer, a friend of the oligarchs, who paved the way for the continuation of the destruction of the Amazon that, sadly, continues to burn.
In a study titled “O Futuro Climatico da Amazonia,” a Brazilian scientist named Antonio Nobre argues that the trees are more important for the survival of our planet than most people think. Nobre, who is also a member of the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), states that the water that evaporates from the trees, which is pulled from the ground, lowers the atmospheric pressure when condensed. Due to the lower atmospheric pressure, the moist air from the ocean enters the continent creating a huge flow of vaporized water.
This phenomenon is called a “flying river.” This flying river is bigger than any other river and, as it dissolves, turns into rain, not only in the forest but all over the continent. Without the trees to pull the water out of the ground, the atmospheric pressure will rise, thus sending all the water to the ocean and eventually creating a desert where once existed the largest forest on earth.
Who is responsible?
As to the question of who is to blame, first we must say who is not to blame. The people are not to blame.
Brazilian President Bolsonaro puts the blame for the criminal fires on the environmentalist nongovernmental organizations and people who defend the forest.
Although not directly setting the fires, it is Bolsonaro himself who is responsible. He is guilty for purposely dismantling and defunding the agencies that were preventing the massive destruction of the environment in Brazil. He is guilty for his use of words that empower the ones who profit from it and for guaranteeing the impunity of their crimes.
He’s also guilty for placing Ricardo Salles as minister of the environment, a man who stated that the Amazon should be exploited and who, according to The Intercept, forged documents to benefit mining companies. He is guilty along with the oligarchs who, through money and influence, still make many Brazilian workers believe that what is good for the bosses is good for them.
The struggle of the Amazon represents the struggle, not only of the Brazilian people, but also of all Latin America and the Caribbean that, after centuries of devastations, fight for their survival, their habitat, their culture and even the rain.