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“RIO DE JANEIRO – “The Amazon is ours,” Brazilian President José Sarney defiantly declared before the United Nations General Assembly in 1989. The slogan’s obvious nationalist force made it a favorite of right-wing politicians, including members of Congress linked to construction companies with stakes in the rainforest’s development. Thirty years later, President Jair Bolsonaro is now leading their ranks – and threatening the wellbeing not only of the Amazon, but also of Brazil and the entire planet.
Bolsonaro argues that Brazil’s claim to the Amazon is in the country’s best interests. The foreign actors who criticize Brazil’s exploitation of the rainforest – from European governments to Pope Francis – are promoting biodiversity only so that they can exploit it in the future. With characteristic misogyny, he recently declared that “Brazil is like a virgin that every foreign pervert wants.”
But Bolsonaro does not want to keep the Amazon chaste; he merely wants to be among those exploiting it. His promotion of the rainforest’s development and attacks on environmental regulation have led, for example, to the expansion of agribusiness, particularly cattle ranching, and illegal logging. According to data from Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research, deforestation of Brazil’s portion of the Amazon increased in June by 88% year on year.”
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