Brazil’s Presidential Election Could Be the Amazon’s Last Chance

Brazil’s Presidential Election Could Be the Amazon’s Last Chance
A firefighter checks his GPS device as fire consumes land deforested by cattle farmers near Novo Progresso, Para state, Brazil, Aug. 23, 2020 (AP photo by Andre Penner).

Brazil’s upcoming presidential election in October will determine whether the destruction of the Amazon rainforest can be slowed or reversed, something that will have an impact on climate change globally. While getting rid of President Jair Bolsonaro, who has been a disaster for the Amazon, will be a necessary first step, it will also be the easy part.

Under Bolsonaro, deforestation rates in Brazil have increased nearly 60 percent. He has encouraged deforestation for agriculture, mining on remote and Indigenous land, and infrastructure projects that reach deep into the rainforest, bringing many illicit activities—including illegal logging and wildlife trafficking—along with them. His budgets have gutted civilian agencies tasked with protecting critical environmental areas, and the military under Bolsonaro’s leadership has provided very limited support for those agencies’ work in areas where they face threats to their security. And if that weren’t enough, Bolsonaro’s administration has also appointed former and current members of the armed forces, instead of the usual civilian leadership, to lead those same agencies.

The issue goes beyond the presidential level, however. According to the Brazilian Report, “deforestation is on the ballot” even at the lower levels of government. At least 181 candidates for lower-level public office have a record of environmental infractions, and many of them are Bolsonaro supporters.

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