President Bolsonaro of Brazil is behind a policy of clearing the Amazon rainforest for more cattle farming and agriculture. He claims that this is a matter for Brazil and no one else. The Amazon basin does not just belong to Brazil. Parts of it are in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela. The Amazon rainforest influences the weather patterns throughout the whole of South America. More importantly it is a significant source of carbon capture for the whole world.
It has been rightly said that the foreign policy of the Duque government in Colombia has been erratic. Not much has been said about the blind spots in its policy, such as the silence about Jair Bolsonaro’s activities in Brazil, which directly affect the interests of Colombia and the entire region.
If a country decided to dam a river containing the drinking water on which the citizens of a neighbouring country depend, the act would be considered hostile, and even seen as an aggression. As described by The Economist, Bolsonaro is doing that kind of thing in the Amazon, setting off the alarm on regional and global risks that the Brazilian former Colonel embodies.
Bolsonaro has been as stubborn as he has been foolish in promoting livestock and agricultural business and deforestation in the Amazon. He appointed as former Minister of Agriculture the former leader of the rural lobby, representing the large landowners responsible for much of the tree clearing. One of his first decrees (declared illegal by the Courts and Congress) attempted to transfer to the minister the power to stop land titles being registered in the names of the indigenous peoples who have preserved the Amazon. He appointed an environment minister who thinks that “the duty of the State is to protect the property rights of landowners.”
Confronted with the recent data on the explosion of logging in the Amazon, Bolsonaro called the data “lies” and demanded that scientists consult the true figures before publishing “so they don’t screw me with my pants down.” In his characteristic language, he responded to criticism from leaders such as Macron and Merkel about deforestation by saying: “Brazil is the virgin that all depraved foreigners want.” His vice president, an ex-military man, has said it in less crude terms: what happens in the Amazon is a matter for Brazil, not the international community.
In regard to the latter, as with the rest of their excuses, they are very wrong. What happens in the Amazon has global effects, because the jungle is one of the largest remaining ecosystems that can absorb large amounts of the carbon that is warming the planet and endangering human life. The effects of Bolsonaro’s irresponsibility are felt even more in neighbouring countries, which should be protesting because water and moisture recycled by the forest are essential to maintain the stability of the climate and populations not only of the Amazon but also along the Andes.
The Amazon functions as an air river that irrigates much of South America. Bolsonaro is damming it and, according to the most informed scientists, he can cause its collapse with no return if he continues with his clearing policy. Already 3% of the remaining forest has been cleared under his government.
What do the Colombian Government and others in the region have to say? What do we Colombians and South Americans have to say when we are already suffering the consequences?
César Rodríguez-Garavito (http://cesarrodriguez.net/) is a Colombian author and regular columnist for El Espectador. His work bridges research and advocacy on human rights and environmental justice in different regions of the world. He is the Co-Director of Open Global Rights, a leading online space for debate among human rights practitioners and analysts, where he writes The Future of Human Rights blog. This article was published on 8 August 2019, and has been translated from Spanish by Kieran Tapsell. https://www.elespectador.com/opinion/bolsonaro-es-una-amenaza-regional-columna-875077
International Affairs, Environment and Climate