Opinion, by Alfonso Stefanini
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Banana Republics are back on the rise and I’m not talking about women and men apparels or Chiquita Banana, but rather a territory sixteen times that of Central America, the Federal Republic of Brazil.
Current President Michel Temer’s government, ex-president Dilma Rousseff former trusted republican vice president who forced a coop-d’état on the socialist woman that left people with their jaws open after an impeachment process that was worthy of the Ringling Brothers final closing show, is leading Brazil into a steady and efficient environmental policy landslide that is having unprecedented negative impacts on natural ecosystems, conservation designated areas, and indigenous and traditional peoples reserves.
Countries like Norway who agreed to invest US$1 billion until 2020 at the UN Paris Climate Change Conference in 2015 for the protection of the Amazon, among other investor countries, are having second thoughts about where their money is going considering recent reports that show deforestation rates thirty-percent higher in 2016 than the previous year, and this number could be even higher with careful analysis of Mapbiomas.org.
The watering down of environmental laws protecting Brazil’s most precious wealth, as seen in recent provisional measures such as 756 and 758 aim to decrease the total size of National Parks, is slowly but generously being granted by the agribusiness-lobby dominated national congress with its sitting Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi, who is Green Peace’s golden chainsaw recipient and the world’s soybean head honcho king.
This is to say the burning seasons of the 80’s and 90’s are giving Brazil a real run for their money today because of land grabbing and squatting known as “grilagem” which brings a host of problems like illegal mining and logging and violence to existing populations.
This sophisticated old-new form of territorial colonization only benefits conglomerate businesses and colonial era families because of the easy access to the newly cleared lands and the fresh land tittles sold by third parties with the help of government loopholes that allow land grabbers to sell the country’s natural patrimony at the “price of bananas” – a term frequently used in Brazil when you sell something for the lowest possible price.
Meanwhile, smokescreen government media signals, not Indian in origin, are being dually sparked by President Temer and Environmental Minister Sarney Filho, elected by Temer himself, who are verbally spewing their alignment with the environmental forest conservation cause but not really doing anything about it at the end of the day.
This is pseudo politics is at its best considering Sarney Filho is the son of former President Jose Sarney, whose family clan governs the State of Maranhão for over a century and whose family has a monopoly on large tracks of agricultural land in addition to mining businesses in the poorest and most socially backward state in Brazil.
Now, through an amazing karmic gesture of good deeds, Filho wants to protect ecosystems and conservation areas like Jamanxim National Park in the Amazon with some of the highest deforestation rates in the country with the help of mannequin President Temer who has been on the impeachment scaffold accused of serious corruption charges.
There is a lot of money to be made with foreign countries investing in forest conservation areas for global climate protection, but a lot more cash can be made with the sleazy congress compadres that could eventually turn Brazil into a Banana Republic on steroids, using old land grabbing tactics to take over parks led by old-school style “coronels” that justify their brutal force and violence on people and the lawfully protected conservation areas in the name of the ruling class plutocracy.
The majority of nutrients and biodiversity are found in the canopies of trees that are systematically being cut down in a way not experienced in decades. Unfortunately, while large tracks of the remaining Amazon and other healthy biomes and ecosystems serve as a perfect sources of water for “technologically advance” monocrop agribusiness, congress will continue to push for laws that push closer and closer to the heart of the jungle until everything has turned to pasture land, specially without law enforcement, transparent monitoring, honest political will and a society that stands up for its natural treasures.
Alfonso Stefanini has an MA in International Environmental Policy from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in California, an MBE from COPPE-UFRJ in Rio de Janeiro and a BA from Hampshire College in Massachusetts. Alfonso lives in Rio, and he can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.