Tuesday, October 4, 2022

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‘Tragedy predicted’: Brazil sees Amazon fires spike

More forest fires have been recorded in the Brazilian Amazon so far this year than in all of 2021, data from the INPE space agency shows.

Brazil’s vast Amazon has seen more wildfires so far this year than in all of 2021, official figures show, as environmental and indigenous rights groups continue to plead for more protection of the critical rainforest.

Satellite monitoring has detected 75,592 fires from January 1 to September 18 this year, already more than the 75,090 detected all of last year, Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) said on Monday.

Greenpeace Brazil spokesman Andre Freitas called the latest figures a “predicted tragedy”.

“After four years of a clear and objective anti-environmental policy by the federal government, we see that the tenure of this government – one of the darkest times ever for the Brazilian environment – is coming to an end, land grabbers and other illegal actors see it as the perfect opportunity to advance in the forest,” Freitas said in a statement.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who is seeking re-election in next month’s highly polarized election, has been internationally condemned for destroying the Amazon.

The world’s largest rainforest has steadily set new records for deforestation under the watch of Bolsonaro, a far-right former army captain who has weakened environmental protections since taking office in 2019.

Since then, average annual deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has increased by 75 percent compared to the previous decade.

Bolsonaro has dismissed the criticism, insisting that Brazil “protects its forests much better than Europe”.

But advocates for indigenous rights in Brazil have denounced the Bolsonaro government for the wave of destruction and mounting threats across the Amazon.

A study earlier this year showed that demarcation of indigenous territory in Brazil has acted as a barrier to deforestation over the past three decades – but rights groups say Bolsonaro’s government has blocked the land protection process.

Indigenous groups rallied in Sao Paulo on Sunday to protest what they described as a “culture of impunity” that has led to dozens of deaths and illegal land grabs by miners, loggers and ranchers in the rainforest.

These land grabs have led to clashes between indigenous tribes and groups illegally trespassing on protected lands to exploit natural resources.

“We want to keep our people alive,” said Sonia Guajajara, an indigenous leader and congressional candidate. “We want our people to stay alive to keep fighting to defend the environment, fighting to defend the water, fighting to defend Mother Earth.”

The Indigenous Missionary Council, a group affiliated with the National Bishops’ Conference of Brazil, recorded 305 cases of “property invasion, illegal exploitation of resources and property damage” in indigenous lands last year.

That’s more than 109 such incidents in 2018, the year before Bolsonaro took office — an increase of 180 percent.

As Brazilians prepare to vote on October 2, concerns are growing that Bolsonaro may refuse to accept the election results.

For months, Bolsonaro has tried to sow distrust in Brazil’s e-voting system, saying without evidence that it is vulnerable to fraud.

That claim has been slammed by legal experts and critics, who accuse Bolsonaro of using false voter fraud claims to dismiss the results, much like former US President Donald Trump, who the Brazilian president impersonated.

Most opinion polls expect Bolsonaro to lose the election to his left-wing rival, former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

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