BRAZIL: Landlords Set Fire to Amazon

Photo: Massive fires continue to ravage the Amazon rainforest

By Jakob Stein

On the weekend of August 10, the latifundio (large landlords) promoted a political action known as “Dia do Fogo” or “Day of Fire,” in which a coordinated series of fires were set to promote the clearing of large sections of the Amazon rainforest for ranching and cattle grazing, as well as other destructive industries like mining. Over the past few weeks, the fires have spread to several states including Acre, Amapá, Amazonas, Maranhão, Mato Grosso, Pará, Rondônia, Roraima, and Tocantins.

Red dots representing current fires in Amazon as of 8/27, reaching 9 Brazilian states as well as Bolivia and Paraguay.

The massive fires have devastated poor peasants and small producers throughout the interior of Brazil, resulting in the destruction of homes, agriculture, massive swaths of forest, and in some cases death. The latifundio have targeted environmental reserves specifically, since they are protected from commercial use, in an effort to expand their own land holdings and increase exports destined for the imperialist centers.

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Aftermath of fires caused by latifundio

Fascist President Jair Bolsonaro has a history of promoting violent and destructive policies aimed at poor peasants and indigenous peoples, and the burning of the Amazon is no exception. Over the past eight months since he has been in office, land invasions from armed paramilitary gangs and military police have increased 150 percent, targeting peasant encampments and indigenous land. Deforestation in the Amazon has also seen a sharp increase throughout Bolsonaro’s tenure, and he has repeatedly criticized indigenous reserves and other environmental preservation regions, calling for them to be opened up for further development.

Bolsonaro has promoted these anti people policies of deforestation and displacement, not only by calling for more development in those regions but also by removing environmental protections and refusing to prosecute those who carry out these illegal actions. This is all done in service to the large landlords as well as multinational corporations involved in mining and logging, just one part of his role as a lackey of imperialism. He has responded to the fires after weeks of inaction by deploying the military under the guise of “fighting the fires,” which has also put many poor peasants in the region on alert.

On August 23, demonstrations across Brazil called for the defense of the Amazon and denounced the pro-landlord policies of the Bolsonaro government. In Rio de Janeiro, protesters took to the streets, including the Popular Revolutionary Student Movemnt (MEPR) who carried a banner reading, “Down with the crimes of the latifundio! Out with imperialism of the Amazon!” Another 4,000 demonstrated in downtown Curitiba chanting slogans like, “Fire, fire, fire on the fascists, out with Bolsonaro and his imperialist gang!”

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Protesters denounce imperialism and pro-landlord policies of Bolsonaro in Rio de Janeiro
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Protesters mobilize to defend the Amazon in Curitiba

The fires have prompted intrusion on the part of imperialist countries as well. Across Europe, imperialists have taken up the position of opposing Bolsonaro’s response to the fires, in some cases by threatening to boycott Brazilian agribusiness, not for the sake of the poor peasants and indigenous peoples, but to seize resources in the Amazon and protect local subsidized farmers from further competition from the Brazilian latifundio.

On the other hand the US imperialist government has defended Bolsonaro and his administration, with Trump tweeting that he is “in all respects doing a great job for the people of Brazil,” that that they “have the full and complete support of the USA.” This contrarian position is due to the fact that the Brazilian government is also promoting large mining companies, which favor US interests in the region.

While many internationally only recognize the fires as the result of lax environmental policies, the masses demonstrating in Brazil recognize that the fires fit perfectly into the pro-landlord policies of the Bolsonaro government that are displacing poor peasant and indigenous peoples at an increasing rate. The fires have devastating implications for the environment, but they are principally motivated by the interests of the Brazilian latifundio and the lackeys of imperialism.

Follow A Nova Democracia for further coverage of the struggles in Brazil.