Among the political instruments of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is a stance that his countrymen call cara de pau : the brazen expulsion of all developments that are currently inconvenient. For weeks now, huge fires are raging in the Brazilian Amazon - and at Bolsonaro the cara de pau is in full action.
"A sensationalist tone!" The head of state complained during the night about his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron. He had called an "international crisis" because the Amazon forest was burning and suggested that the G7 states talk about it. And that was only the youngest Bolsonaro-denial.
For weeks, the president has been denying all sorts of bad news coming from the northern part of his country. In July, the Brazilian space agency noted an increase in deforestation rates of more than 200 percent over the previous year - and Bolsonaro simply let their boss fire. Indigenous peoples have been reporting months of increasing violence and killings in the forests as they seek to defend their habitats from bulldozers and chainsaws - but Bolsonaro does not even get support for it.
Brazil - Jair Bolsonaro reports NGOs involvement in forest fires The fires in the Amazon basin are the worst in years. Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro claims NGOs could have something to do with it. © Photo: Christian Niel Berlinck / ICMBio / dpa
Blame are the environmentalists
In July, for the first time, Bolsonaro questioned the murder of an indigenous chief found with knife wounds in an area where gold diggers illegally invade the Indian territories. And now that the Amazon is literally burning? Bolsonaro did not play it for days - and then, when there was no denying anything, he blamed the environmental and human rights organizations in an apologetic statement. They were "the biggest suspects" for the boards because they wanted to wipe him out.
Bolsonaro's information policy must not be misunderstood: the right-wing foreign policyist does not operate an awkward form of damage limitation here. He does not want to make a predicament that gets him out of hand look better. There is much to suggest that Bolsonaro wants the Amazon to burn: the "economic development" of more parts of the Amazon forest is an important part of Bolsonaro's government policy, and the result is that trees are falling.
The facts about fire: The satellites of the Brazilian space agency INPE last counted just under 73,000 fires, 83 percent more than the year before. About half of them burn in the Amazon region itself and about 30 percent in the south-adjacent savannah region. The fires have also reached neighboring countries such as Bolivia and Paraguay. At the beginning of the week, even the inhabitants of the economic metropolis of São Paulo were surprised by the gigantic cloud of smoke in the sky that sweeps across the continent from the Amazon. It's a big cloud, São Paulo is 3,000 kilometers from the Amazon.
Appointments for slash-and-burn
The fires have two causes. In many places, they are deliberately laid: in the state of Pará, for example, local media reported that agribusinessists had agreed on a "Day of Fire" on August 10, as a demo and celebration of further expansion into the forest. In northern Brazil, this is a widespread speculation method: clearing a forest area, usually in the Regelillegal, often in protected areas for indigenous peoples or in Naturschutzparks.Man set them on fire and later on a few cattle on it, so that the area is considered "agricultural land". It is hoped that in a few years the illegally developed piece of land will subsequently be recognized as a possession. Often it happens like that. Several local authorities and courts share common cause with the agricultural speculators.
Otherwise, the fires break out naturally, there are fires in the Amazon each year. However, it has not been so many as in 2019. Climate researchers and forestry experts now believe they can clearly prove that it burns so much because the forest is unusually dry. The water budget of the Amazon region, which produces its own rain by evaporation and usually extinguishes the fire quickly, is confused. This, in turn, is a consequence of the rapid deforestation that has meanwhile accelerated to a speed of three football fields per minute in Brazil. Since the 1970s, about 20 percent of the Brazilian rainforest has disappeared and another 20 percent is considered thinned out.