Brazil’s Amazon faces risk if Bolsonaro wins presidency

Louis Genot –
Promises by Brazil’s far-right presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro and his entourage bode badly for the future of the Amazon — called the “lungs of the planet” — if he wins, environmentalists warn.
The candidate is seen as pliant to the powerful agrobusiness lobby in his country known for putting profit ahead of preservation.
One of his most controversial campaign pledges is to merge the agriculture and environment ministries into one.
“Let us be clear: the future ministry will come from the productive sector. We won’t have any more fights over this,” Bolsonaro, who vows to boost Brazil’s fragile economy, told a media conference four days after winning the October 7 first-round in the presidential race.
“If he’s elected, that will be the beginning of the end for the Amazon,” his leftist rival in Sunday’s run-off, Fernando Haddad, said last week.
Geraldo Monteiro, a political science professor at Rio de Janeiro State University, said: “As he’s backed by the agrobusiness lobby in congress, which is really strong, Bolsonaro virtually wants to make the environment serve the interests of agrobusiness.”
Bolsonaro has also several times evoked studies to build hydroelectric power stations in the Amazon, which implies the construction of massive dams that would greatly impact water courses and require communities to be moved.
That issue has long been a contentious one between Brazilian authorities and indigenous tribes — particularly over one project already under construction, Belo Monte, which when finished will be the third-biggest dam in the world.
In February, the hard-right candidate said that, if elected, he would not give up “one centimetre more” of land to indigenous communities claiming traditional land.
Emilio La Rovere, director of an environmental studies lab at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, said Bolsonaro’s discourse “recalled the doctrine in place at the time of the military dictatorship,” between 1964 and 1985 — which Bolsonaro served as an army captain.
That doctrine was “development at any price,” to the detriment of the environment.
For La Rovere, Bolsonaro’s campaign promises could have “serious consequences at a global level” and also undermine efforts made over the past 15 years to preserve the country’s exceptional biodiversity.
Bolsonaro has even threatened to follow US President Donald Trump’s example of taking his country out of the Paris climate accord.