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Federal Court closes investigation against voluntary fire fighters in Alter do Chão

Activists were accused of starting fires in the region in 2019

Credit: Brigada de Incêndio de Alter do Chão/Reproduction

18 Feb 21

Federal Court closes investigation against voluntary fire fighters in Alter do Chão

At the request of the Federal Public Prosecution (MPF), a Federal Court closed the investigation about the causes of the fires that occurred in September 2019 in the district of Alter do Chão, in Santarém (Pará state), which led to the unjustified arrest of four voluntary firefighters who worked in the region. According to a note from the MPF, there was an “impossibility of determining the authorship of the crime”. “We found that the fire originated in three different locations and reached an area of 1.2 thousand hectares, but we discovered no basic evidence that could lead to the authorship of the crime,” the text says.

In November 2019, following an investigation that pointed to NGOs as responsible for starting the fire, the Pará Civil Police carried out the preventive arrest of the four members of the Alter do Chão Fire Brigade, in addition to carrying out a search warrant at the headquarters of the NGO Saúde & Alegria Project, an organization recognized worldwide for its work in the Amazon. Back then, the civil society received with astonishment and indignation the news and mobilized to prove the activists’ innocence. 

Brazilian ministers meet Biden representative to discuss deforestation

John Kerry, Biden’s representative for the climate agenda

Credit: Center for American Progress/via CC BY-ND 2.0

17 Feb 21

Brazilian ministers meet Biden representative to discuss deforestation

The ministers of Foreign Affairs, Ernesto Araújo, and of the Environment, Ricardo Salles, participated in a videoconference with John Kerry, special representative on climate for the new president of the United States, Joe Biden.

In a brief note about the meeting, the Brazilian government said that “possibilities for cooperation and dialogue between Brazil and the U.S. in the area of climate change and combating deforestation were examined”.

Since the election of Biden, who criticized the devastation of the Brazilian Amazon and indicated the environmental agenda as a priority for his government, there has been speculation about the relationship between Brazil and the United States, after the Bolsonaro’s bet on a unilateral partnership with former President Donald Trump and his negationist and anti-human rights agenda. The departure of both ministers, both of whom are outspoken climate deniers, has already been mentioned in the press as a necessary measure for a possible reconciliation between the countries to happen.

Ministry of the Environment budget for 2021 is the lowest in 21 years

A report says that this is part of project of environmental destruction by the government

Credit: Christian Braga/Greenpeace

22 Jan 21

Ministry of the Environment budget for 2021 is the lowest in 21 years

Following the trend of cuts and low budget execution, the Ministry of the Environment (MMA), spearheaded by Ricardo Salles, presented for 2021 the smallest budget proposition of the last twenty-one years, indicates the report “Passando a boiada”, produced by the Climate Observatory (OC). The Annual Budget Bill (Ploa), which the National Congress probably will approve in March, foresees R$ 1.72 billion reais for all MMA expenses – since 2000, the authorized amount has never been less than R$ 2.9 billion reais. Another fact draws attention: after a year of record deforestation and burning rates, the ministry starts the year with a 27.4% reduction in the budget for environmental inspection and forest fire fighting.

The proposal “crowns the Bolsonaro government’s environmental dismantling strategy,” analyzes the organization, reminding that the president fulfilled his promises made in 2019. “It is a destruction project that is being carried out,” says Suely Araújo, a senior public policy specialist at the Climate Observatory.

Brazil is excluded from UN climate summit

The organization considered the goals presented by minister Ricardo Salles to be insufficient

Credit: Marcos Corrêa/PR

12 Dec 20

Brazil is excluded from UN climate summit

The UN excluded Brazil from the 2020 Climate Ambition Summit, a virtual meeting held on December 12. 77 heads of state attended the summit, who also received representatives of the business sector and civil society. The meeting of the “world’s most ambitious” global leaders, according to the UN, marked the five years of the Paris Accord and prepares the debate for the 2021 Conference on Climate Change (COP 26), in the United Kingdom. The representatives of the countries presented their established targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions aimed at slowing global warming.

The Brazilian goal, revealed four days before the summit by the Ministry of the Environment was considered insufficient. This was the reason that led the meeting organizers to leave Brazil out of the discussion, according to the UOL report.

According to an analysis by the Climate Observatory, the plan presented by Minister Ricardo Salles is an update of the 2015 plan that is based on an inadequate calculation, which will allow Brazil to emit a greater volume of greenhouse gases than the original target. Heard by the website G1, the environmentalist Marcio Astrini, executive director of the Observatory, explains that the new goal maintains the same percentage reduction defined five years ago – 43% by 2030 – without considering the change in the calculation basis used. “The 2015 reduction target was based on the Second Inventory of Greenhouse Gas Emissions. The current goal is based on the Third Inventory, which updated the absolute value of gases emitted in 2005 from 2.1 billion tons to 2.8 billion tons of gases”. In other words, to maintain the climate target assumed in 2015, Brazil would have to commit to reducing 57% of emissions by 2030. “Without the readjustment in the calculation basis, the new target of the climate proposal is about 400 million tons of carbon higher than it was in 2015,” warns Astrini.

In the opposite direction of the UN, the Ministry of Foreign Relations stated in a note that the new goals presented by Brazil are among the “most ambitious in the world”.

New NGO report links beef industry giants to illegal Amazon deforestation

A farm in São Félix do Xingu, Pará State, that participated in the “Day of The Fire” and supplies JBS and Marfrig

Credit: Christian Braga/Greenpeace

3 Dec 20

New NGO report links beef industry giants to illegal Amazon deforestation

A Global Witness survey shows that three Brazilian beef giants – JBS, Marfrig and Minerva – have their production chains marked by illegal deforestation in the Amazon. The study shows that between 2017 and 2019, in Pará State, the companies bought cattle from 379 farms that illegally deforested an area of 202 square kilometers, equivalent to 20,000 soccer fields. The trail of destruction is even greater when considering the over 4,000 suppliers of these farms, the “indirect suppliers” linked to the productive chains of the companies, responsible for an estimated total of 140,000 deforested soccer fields.

The report also questions the veracity of the audits carried out by international companies DNV-GL and Grant Thornton, which claimed “several times” that JBS, Marfrig and Minerva were fulfilling their social and environmental commitments. Also, major international banks such as Santander, Deutsche Bank and HSBC are cited in the document as accomplices to the deforestation, since they continue financing the companies.

The farmers are direct accomplices of the destruction of the Amazon, the slaughterhouses are failing to remove the deforestation from their productive chains of the cattle that they buy from these cattle ranchers, the auditors have restrictions to perform their audits, which means that the audits are not detecting the cases that we identified, The banks, on the other hand, are not asking enough questions of the meat factories and, at the same time, are not forced by their governments to make a strict control to remove deforestation from their investments,” summarized Chris Moye, senior Amazon researcher at Global Witness, in an interview for BBC Brazil

Amazon deforestation hits record high under Bolsonaro

Brazil lost 11.088 km² of Amazon Rainforest in eleven months

Credit: Christian Braga/Greenpeace

30 Nov 20

Amazon deforestation hits record high under Bolsonaro

The Bolsonaro administration broke the record for deforestation in the Amazon in the last 12 years, according to data from the National Institute of Space Research (INPE). From August 2019 to July 2020, 11,088 km² of forest were devastated, an increase of approximately 9.5% over the previous period. The State of Pará leads the devastation, being responsible for 46.8% of the deforestation. These are the first merged data that contemplate only the mandate of the current government, informed Folha de S. Paulo.

During the presentation of the new survey, which occurred without the presence of the Minister of the Environment, Ricardo Salles, vice president Hamilton Mourão said that the increase was below expected, but reinforced that they should face the new data with concern.

The growing devastation in the Amazon happens despite the presence of the Armed Forces in the region – through the Guarantee of Law and Order (GLO). The measure is a bet by the government to respond to the problem. A group of foreign military personnel issued a warning about Brazil’s environmental and climate vulnerability and the country’s lack of structure to deal with the problem. As part of its annual report, the International Military Council on Climate and Security published a document asking the government to treat climate change and deforestation as a “security priority,” reinforcing that current environmental policy damages the country’s reputation. “Besides putting ecology and water supply at risk, the recent outbreak of deforestation and the counterproductive rhetoric of President Bolsonaro have damaged Brazil’s reputation abroad, undermining the country’s trade agreements.”

Brazil's greenhouse gas emissions rise by almost 10% in 2019

Experts associate the rise to deforestation of the Amazon and Pantanal

Credit: Christian Braga/Greenpeace

12 Nov 20

Brazil’s greenhouse gas emissions rise by almost 10% in 2019

In the first year of the Bolsonaro government, Brazil registered a 9.6% increase in greenhouse gas emissions, driven by high deforestation rates. The information comes from the Climate Observatory (OC), based on the analysis of data from the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Estimation System (SEEG). In 2019, 2.17 billion gross tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) were released into the atmosphere, compared to 1.98 billion in 2018. According to the data, the rural activity was the main responsible for the increase in emissions: “Adding the emissions from land use and farming, the SEEG concludes that rural activity – either directly or indirectly, through deforestation, which is almost all directed to farming – accounted for 72% of emissions in Brazil last year,” said the organization.

The energy sector also had a significant participation in emissions registered in 2019, responsible for 19% of total emissions in the country. According to the OC, the growth comes from the high consumption of electricity and the consequent activation of gas thermoelectric plants and increased use of diesel. The increase happens in the while the government gives subsides to the production of fossil fuels, according to a recent study by the Institute of Socio-economic Studies (Inesc), published by the G1 website. There were R$ 99.4 billion in subsidies to producers and consumers of oil derivatives, coal and natural gas, an increase of 16% over 2018 and the equivalent of 1.36% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2019.

The contribution of the waste sector, although small, by being responsible for 4% of the country’s emissions – was also highlighted. “Historically the sector presents a significant growth. However, in recent years a certain stability of emissions is possible. This indicates a scenario of maintaining the current situation, without major advances in waste management and the fulfillment of sectoral climate objectives,” said Iris Coluna, of ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, one of the NGOs responsible for developing the SEEG.

The 2019 emissions go against the goal of the National Policy on Climate Change (PNMC) – which officializes the country’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions between 36.1% and 38.9% of projected emissions by 2020 – and places Brazil in 6th place on the list of the world’s largest climate polluters, according to the organization.

VP takes ambassadors on blindsiding tour to the Amazon

NGO offered an alternative tour to diplomats, including areas more severely affected by deforestation

Credit: Christian Braga/Greenpeace

6 Nov 20

VP takes ambassadors on blindsiding tour to the Amazon

At the head of two key institutions for environmental protection, the Amazon Council and the Amazon Fund, Vice President Hamilton Mourão organized a tour of the Amazon with ambassadors, which began on October 4. Representatives from the European Union, Germany, France, Sweden, United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal, Canada, Peru, Colombia and South Africa participated in the visits.

As reported by El País, the trip was criticized by environmentalists for proposing a “shielded” route, concentrated on the outskirts of Manaus, capital of Amazonas State, and the city of São Gabriel da Cachoeira, ignoring the regions most affected by deforestation. As a counterpoint, the NGO Greenpeace sent the ambassadors an alternative route, including the states of Pará and Mato Grosso do Sul. “A diplomatic trip through the Brazilian Amazon that does not include in its route the challenges and serious environmental damage that the region faces, is an incomplete trip and a missed opportunity,” said the NGO.

To the DW, Heiko Thoms, German Ambassador, one of the main donor countries of the now paralyzed Amazon Fund, stated that the trip does not change the country’s impression about the Brazilian environmental crisis. In parallel to Mourão’s invitation, Thoms met with the Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon (COIAB) and the Sustainable Amazon Foundation.

The United Kingdom diplomat Liz Davidson shared her impressions in a series of Twitter posts. She reinforced the importance of the visit “at a crucial moment of the sustainable development agenda in Brazil and in the world”. Davidson, however, regretted “not going to the areas most affected by deforestation and not having had the opportunity to talk with organizations and social leaderships working in the region, which would have helped to conduct our dialogue in a more balanced and transparent manner”.

The visit took place amid strong international pressure against Brazil’s high deforestation rates. In early October, the European Parliament called for changes in Mercosur’s environmental policy so that the economic agreement between the blocs could be signed; in June, a group of investors sent an open letter to the Brazilian embassies in several countries expressing concern about growing deforestation rates.

Ibama halts forest fire-fighting due to "lack of money" while resources at the Amazon Fund remain frozen

Over 1,400 environmental agents had to leave their duties

Credit: Vinícius Mendonça/Ibama/via CC BY-SA 2.0

21 Oct 20

Ibama halts forest fire-fighting due to “lack of money” while resources at the Amazon Fund remain frozen

The Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Resources (Ibama), via its Environmental Protection Directorate, ordered the withdrawal of the Forest Fire Brigades across the country starting at midnight of October 22nd. The order interrupted the work of approximately 1,4000 firefighting agents who work at the National Center for Prevention and Fight against Forest Fires (Prevfogo). In a statement, the organ justified the measure alleging “exhaustion of resources”. “Since September, the autarchy has been facing difficulties regarding financial releases by the National Treasury Secretariat”, says the text. The newspaper Estado de S. Paulo revealed that the Ministry of the Environment questioned the Ministry of Economy about the resources, but did not receive any hint that the funds would be released.

The episode is yet another escalation on the budgetary tension between the two ministries. In August, minister Ricardo Salles announced the interruption of firefighting in the Amazon and the Pantanal due to the blockade of R$ 60 million in the budget of the Ministry of the Environment, determined by the chief of staff of the Presidency and led by the Ministry of Economy. Salles retreated, but it led Vice President Hamilton Mourão, who heads the Amazon Fund, to classify MMA’s action as “hasty”.

For the National Association of Environmental Public Servants (Ascema), the withdrawal of the Forest Fire Brigades happens as “the government  squanders money by ending the Amazon Fund to now say it has no resources”. The organization refers to governance problems faced by the Amazon Fund since 2019, such as the exclusion of participation from society, among other irregularities, which culminated in Salles’s departure from the chairmanship of the committee in May 2020. Managed by the National Bank for Economic Development and Social (BNDES), the Amazon Fund raises funds for actions to prevent, monitor and combat deforestation, and to promote conservation and the sustainable use of the biome.

In this scenario, Norway, the main international donor of the fund, reaffirmed the need for a new stance by the federal government in relation to the country’s environmental policy so that operations can be resumed. In an interview with Valor Econômico, Sveinung Rotevatn, Norwegian Minister for Climate and Environment, stated that the advance of deforestation and the vulnerable situation of indigenous peoples in Brazil is of concern to Norway. “I receive letters every week asking us to ask the Brazilian authorities for concrete progress before reopening the Amazon Fund,” he said.

Deforestation alerts in the Amazon reach new high in September

It is the second deforestation peak during Bolsonaro administration in September

Credit: Christian Braga/Greenpeace

9 Oct 20

Deforestation alerts in the Amazon reach new high in September

Statistics from the Institute for Space Studies (Inpe) show that the two biggest peaks of deforestation alerts in the Legal Amazon region in September occurred under Bolsonaro administration: the first, in 2019, with alerts in an area of ​​1,454 km², and now, in 2020, in 964 km². The information on deforestation by Inpe traces back to 2015, the year in which the Inpe’s Deforestation Detection System in Real Time (Deter) began circulating the alerts. The website El País reports that, until 2018, the monthly average of alerts from the Dete/Inper system was 576 km². As of 2019, it has risen to 1,189 km².

In response to the rise in deforestation in the Amazon region in 2020, the Bolsonaro administration, through its Ministry of Defense, implemented in May the Army Operation Verde Brasil 2, led by Vice President Hamilton Mourão, to “fight and suppress environmental crimes” in the Legal Amazon region. However, deforestation continued to rise even with the allocation of R$ 418,6 million for the six-month  Verde Brasil 2 Operation, which is set to end in November.   

On October 5, piauí magazine denounced the use of the Operation Verde Brasil 2 budget for the refurbishment of Armed Forces barracks and units inside and outside the Legal Amazon. One of them was the 47th Infantry Battalion, which deployed military personnel from Coxim, Mato Grosso do Sul State, to operate in the city of Juara, Mato Grosso State. According to the publication, Verde Brasil 2’s budget “already paid for the renovation of the roofs, the painting of the walls and the replacement of coatings, floors, doors and frames” of the 47th Battalion. For doors and frames alone, it was R$ 545,000 reais. Another example is the 44th Motorized Infantry Battalion, in Cuiabá, Mato Grosso’s capital, whose renovation expenses in the barracks exceeded R$1.2 million reais.

“Firefighter Cattle”

Minister Teresa Cristina says more stock farming could stop Pantanal’s devastation

Credits: Antonio Araujo/via CC BY-NC 2.0

9 Oct 20

“Firefighter Cattle”

While Pantanal wetlands face record breaking rates of forest fires, Agriculture Minister Teresa Cristina stated that the problem could be mitigated if there was more livestock activity in the biome. She also said that the devastation was because of the sizeable amount of “dry organic matter” in the region. The minister’s speech alludes to the “thesis” of the “firefighter cattle”, presented by the livestock leader Leopoldo Mário in an article in Folha de S. Paulo in September. The farmer stated that cattle would be the “fireman of the Pantanal” for cleaning up the pasture, and defended the permission of controlled burning as a measure to reduce fires in the region.

According to data from the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), 14% of the Pantanal area was burned only in September, a historical record of annual devastation since the beginning of the monitoring work carried out by the agency in 2002. In addition to the drought that marked the period, data from the Integrated Multiagencies Center for Operational Coordination of Mato Grosso (Ciman-MT) point out that the fires recorded in the state were caused by intentional human action. According to an analysis by the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), INPE’s partner in monitoring the region affected by the fires, the fires consumed 26% of the total area of ​​the Pantanal in 2020, from January to September.

Environmental offenders hold public office and run for local elections in Amazon states

Names on Ibama’s “dirty list” might gain more power in the 2020 elections

Crédito: Felipe Werneck/Ibama/via CC BY-SA 2.0

7 Oct 20

Environmental offenders hold public office and run for local elections in Amazon states

A former logging company owner, defendant in an environmental crime charge, became director of the Acre’s Institute for the Environment and Climate Analysis (Imac), the state agency responsible for “preventing and encouraging the preservation of the environment”. The State Official Gazette ratified the nomination on October 2, according to G1 news. The Federal Prosecutor’s Office (MPF) denounced Adelaide de Fátima Oliveira for fraudulent misrepresentation, for making public inspection difficult on environmental issues and for acquiring lumber without a valid license. According to the complaint, in 2014, the former businesswoman instructed employees to insert false information into the control system used for issuing Forest Origin Documents (SisDOF) in an attempt to falsify the legality of the lumber she was selling. The same procedure also might have happened in 2015, in another company that she owned. Questioned by the G1 portal, Oliveira declined to comment.

In other states of the Legal Amazon region, several environmental offenders already occupy public positions, and the situation may worsen with the upcoming municipal elections in November 2020. The investigative journalism outlet Agência Pública made a study that shows that 118 candidates for mayor were fined for environmental crimes committed in the region in the last ten years. Of these, 51 are in office. Out of the 28 running for re-election, 12 are farmers, ranchers or loggers.

Among the politicians fined by Ibama, Pública found mayors of municipalities in the State of Pará who gained national attention for what became known as the “Day of Fire”, on August 10th, 2019 – Valmir Climaco (MDB), from Itaituba; Raimundo Batista Santiago (PSC), from Jacareacanga; Valdinei José Ferreira (PL) and his deputy, Maurício de Lima Santos (PL), from Trairão; Ubiraci Soares Silva (PL) and his deputy, Gelson Luiz Dill (MDB), from Novo Progresso. Publica also listed candidates for mayors and vice-mayors from states outside the Amazon who have environmental fines for crimes committed in the region. The states of Goiás, Ceará, São Paulo, Bahia, Minas Gerais, Mato Grosso do Sul, Pernambuco and Paraná have 11 candidates, and six of them are running for reelection.

Clash between government and Ministry of the Environment threatens fight against deforestation

VP Hamilton Mourão said that Salles declarations were “hasty”

Crédito: Foto: Romério Cunha/VPR/via Foto Públicas

28 Aug 20

Clash between government and Ministry of the Environment threatens fight against deforestation

The minister of the Environment, Ricardo Salles, announced the interruption of the fight against forest fires in the Amazon and Pantanal regions — but hours later, went back on his decision. The suspension was motivated by a government block on the ministry’s funding. The cut, due to August 31, would sum up to R$ 60 million reais — but the government also went back on the decision.

Vice president Hamilton Mourão, the president of the Amazon Council, said that Salles actions were “hasty” and guaranteed that the operation will continue. According to the newspaper “Valor Econômico”, the responsible for the budget cuts were military personnel close to president Bolsonaro. The newspaper hinted at reports that say that the situation was seen as an “indirect resignation.

In 2020, fires have already ravaged 10% of Pantanal wetland area

Firefighters try to contain the flames in the Pantanal region

Credits: Mayke Toscano/Secom-MT

20 Aug 20

In 2020, fires have already ravaged 10% of Pantanal wetland area

Between January and August 2020, forest fires have ravaged over 17,500 square kilometers of Pantanal, which sums up to 10% of the total area of the region which encompasses the world’s largest tropical wetland area, and the world’s largest flooded grasslands. 

According to an article by Deutsche Welle, there was an 211% increase in hotspots when compared to the same period in the previous year. It was also the highest rate ever recorded since the National Institute of Space Research (INPE) started monitoring fires in Pantanal, in 1998.  Monitoring reports point to human action as responsible for starting 90% of the fires. Due to a severe dry season, the fire spreads easily when in contact with dry forests and grasslands.

One year later, “Day of the Fire” leaves “legacy of impunity”, says Greenpeace

Cattle herd in Novo Progresso, Pará State, one of the “Day of the Fire” hotspots

Photo: Vinícius Mendonça/Ibama/via CC

10 Aug 20

One year later, “Day of the Fire” leaves “legacy of impunity”, says Greenpeace

One year ago, between August 10th and 11, 2019, rural landowners coordinated to start forest fire in Amazon areas in southern Pará State, in the episode that became known as “Day of the Fire”, which caused protests in its aftermath throughout Brazil. In that period, the National Institute of Space Research (Inpe) detected 1.457 fires hotspots in the state, a 1923% increase when compared to the same period in the previous year (2018). 

As the first anniversary of the event approaches, NGO Greenpeace says that the “Day of the Fire” left a legacy of impunity. According to an investigation led by the NGO, out of the 207 rural properties where fires registered in the period in the region, only five were fined by environmental authorities. In 2020, some are functioning normally, producing crops and cattle. 

The local newspaper Folha do Progresso, who first reported on the organization of the Day of the Fire, noted that the rural landowners felt encouraged to engage in the burning by the words of Bolsonaro and declared that the action had the aim of showing the president their willingness to work. Adélcio Piran, the journalist who first reported the incident, told Deutsche Welle that he’s still facing attacks and threats one year after the story came out.

One year after the criminal event, the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest in Pará State is still on the rise. According to data from the Amazon Men and Environment Institute (Imazon), the loss of native forest grew 29% between August, 2019, and July, 2020, when compared to the previous year. The state also has 6 municipalities among the 10 in the country with the highest deforestation rates, including Novo Progresso, where the Day of the Fire originally started.

In the first half of 2020, fires ravaged the Pantanal at unprecedented levels

Forest fires in Pantanal rose by 530% when compared to 2019

Credits: Mayke Toscano/Secom-MT/via Fotos Públicas

23 Jul 20

In the first half of 2020, fires ravaged the Pantanal at unprecedented levels

In 2020, between the months of January and June, the Pantanal biome recorded an increase of 530% in forest fires when compared to the same period in 2019. The data comes from an interactive tool from the NGO Instituto Centro de Vida (ICV) who monitors deforestation hotspots in Mato Grosso State over the yearly season when the State government prohibits fires in rural properties. The fires prohibition, usually issued around  July 15th, this year  came earlier, starting on July 1st and running until September 30th 2020.

The data, open for public consultation on the ICV website, also points out that even though the prohibition season started earlier, there was a 12% rise in fires hotspots in July when compared to the same month in the previous year.

A federal order issued by president Jair Bolsonaro and the minister of the Environment, Ricardo Salles on July 16th, prohibited the use of fires in rural properties in the Pantanal and Amazonia regions. The measure was considered too late in its purposes to contain deforestation and contains a problematic article that allows burning “in areas outside of the Pantanal and Legal Amazon areas when essential to farming activities.”

Bolsonaro denies deforestation and blames indigenous and traditional communities for forest fires

The president said that “the indigenous, the native, the caboclo, the river-dweller constantly do that kind of thing”, referring to forest fires

Photo: Marcelo Camargo/Agência Brasil/via CC

16 Jul 20

Bolsonaro denies deforestation and blames indigenous and traditional communities for forest fires

During his weekly social media broadcast, president Bolsonaro once again said that the claims about his government not protecting the environment are “unfair” and that they are part of a “commercial struggle” that aims at jeopardizing Brazil agribusiness, calling Europe an “environmental cult”. He also blamed Brazilian indigenous people and traditional communities for provoking forest fires: “indigenous people, river dwellers, native Brazilians, caboclos, they constantly do that kind of thing.” Bolsonaro used fake information to defend himself, stating that under his administration forest fires and hotspots are at an all-time low.

Amazon deforestation alerts rise by 63,75%  in comparison to 2019

Illegal logging at the Indigenous Land Pirititi

Crédito: Felipe Werneck/Ibama/CC BY-SA 2.0

8 May 20

Amazon deforestation alerts rise by 63,75% in comparison to 2019

Data from the National Institute of Space Research (Inpe) shows that the Amazon deforestation alerts transmitted by the System of Detection of Deforestation in Real Time (Deter) rose by 64,75% in April, compared to the same month in 2019. The Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Ibama) uses the Deter alerts to monitor and substantiate their inspections and control operations. Greenpeace said that the government “ignores” the alerts and “weakens the environmental control with the exoneration of Ibama’s personnel”. When president Bolsonaro took office, in February 2019, the Ministry of the Environment exonerated 21 from 27 regional Ibama inspectors. By the end of 2019, the number of environmental fines had dropped by 34% when compared to the previous year, the lowest record in the past 24 years.

The increase in deforestation alerts happened even though on April 7th, president Bolsonaro had issued a Law and Order Guarantee (GLO) decree that authorized sending army troops to fight forest fires in the Legal Amazon. GLO missions only occur, according to Brazil’s legislation, when “traditional public security forces resources have been exhausted” and can only be executed via presidential sanction.

Joe Biden warns Bolsonaro about Amazon conservation

Joe Biden is running for president in the USA

Créditos: Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA

16 Mar 20

Joe Biden warns Bolsonaro about Amazon conservation

In an interview to Americas Quarterly magazine, democratic candidate Joe Biden answered a question about the role of the USA regarding the protection of the Amazon rainforest. “President Bolsonaro must know that if Brazil fails in its responsibility of being Amazon’s guardian, my government will unite the world to protect the environment,”, he said.

NGO states that Bolsonaro gave “carte blanche” to criminal networks in the Amazon

HRW denounced Bolsonaro’s attacks against environmental protection measures

Crédito: Marcos Corrêa/PR/CC 2.0

14 Jan 20

NGO states that Bolsonaro gave “carte blanche” to criminal networks in the Amazon

An annual report by the NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW), which analyzed the current situation of human rights in over 100 countries, presented strong criticism against Bolsonaro’s government regarding the deforestation rates and environmental protective measures in the Amazon. They stated that the government actions — or the lack of them — gave carte blanche to criminal networks in the region. HRW believes that the attacks made by Bolsonaro towards environmental control agents put both the Amazon and activists at risk.

Alter do Chão Amazon Forest fires: Bolsonaro vs. WWF and Dicaprio

Bolsonaro accuses environment defender without proof

Crédito: Antonio Cruz/Agência Brasil

30 Nov 19
Police arrests activists on iffy charges after forest fires at Alter do Chão

Detained volunteers act against the spread of forest fires in the region

Crédito: Brigada de Alter do Chão (PA)/Handout/via Agência Brasil

27 Nov 19

Police arrests activists on iffy charges after forest fires at Alter do Chão

Brazilian civil  society was taken by surprise when the Civil Police of Para State preventively arrested four volunteer firefighters in Alter do Chão, municipality of Santarém. The arrests were made as part of an operation that investigates the origin of forest fires that affected Alter do Chão back in September, which burnt an area the size of 1,600 football fields. According to the state civil police, investigations point that NGOs, among them the Alter do Chão Fire Brigade, acted to start the fires.  


The police also raided the office for Saude e Alegria Project (PSA), using a generic search warrant to apprehend computers and paperwork. Just last week, the NGO won a prize as one of the Best 99 NGOs in Brazil. Caetano Scannavino, coordinator for PSA, said: “It’s a nightmare. What we can clearly see is a political action to try to demoralise NGOs working in the Amazon. It’s very worrisome.” Caetano says he personally knows the 4 arrested people, and one of them works for PSA. “They all seem to be extremely committed people”.  


Later that day, a police sheriff with the Civil Police in Para said that they have plenty of investigative material on the alleged irregular work of NGOs in the state. He said that 3 local Santarém NGOs – Projeto Saúde e Alegria, Brigada Alter do Chão e Aquíferos Alter do Chão – received money from WWF Brazil to fight the fires, but that some of this money had been diverted. The information about money diversion was not part of the original denouncement that came to the public. 


All 3 NGOs published notes and denied irregularities, saying that were taken by surprise with the accusations and making themselves available for the inquiries. On the 27th, during a custody hearing with the judge, the 4 detained volunteers asked for the suspension of the preventive arrests, but the request was denied. Their lawyer is now taking the case to the State Justice Court where a request for habeas corpus will be filed.

When asked to comment on this case, the Minister of the Environment only said it is a Para State led investigation and that it’s necessary to wait for the findings of the inquiry.

Public prosecution office says Alter do Chão fires started with land-grabbers

Prosecution rules out brigadiers participation in the fires

Crédito: Eugênio Scannavino/Personal Archive

27 Nov 19

Public prosecution office says Alter do Chão fires started with land-grabbers

The Public Prosecutor’s Office (MPF) asked for full access to the inquiry that led to the arrest of four brigadiers accused of forest fires in Alter do Chão, in the State of Pará. Opposed to what the Pará Civil Police established, the MPF pointed to the action of land-grabbers and declared “that there were no elements that pointed to the participation of brigadiers or civil society organizations”. The prosecutors algo pointed that as one of the most famous river beach destinations in the country, the area is coveted by the tourism and real estate industries, and is under threat of public land invaders.

Catholic Church Synode takes place at the Amazon region

Church discussed indigenous rights, environment and the Amazon

Jeffrey Bruno/Wikimedia Commons/via CC BY-SA 2.0

12 Oct 19

Catholic Church Synode takes place at the Amazon region

Pope Francis celebrated the opening mass for the Amazon Synode, in the Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.  The Synode gathered bishops and other guests from 9 countries of the Biome to debate issues concerning the Catholic Church work in the region, the environment and local residents, including indigenous peoples.

During a 10-minute homily, the Pope criticised the recent forest fires that ravaged the Amazon, asked that the church does not limit itself to a “maintenance pastoral” and that the synode has the inspiration to “renew the pathways to the church in the region”. A group of Brazilian indigenous linked to CIMI (Missionary Indigenist Council) attended the celebration, together with more than 200 cardinals and bishops. At the end, the group held a banner inside de Basilica with the message “against the theft, destruction and invasion of indigenous territories”. 

Less than a week later, at a Conservative Congress organized by Federal Deputy Eduardo Bolsonaro, far-right groups attacked the Synode and Pope Francis. They complained about Dom Claudio Hummes, who is close to the Pope and also engaged in human rights struggles in Brazil, saying that he is a “personal friend of former president Lula”. They also attacked the Liberation Theology and a “red sect” inside the church, labelling it “tyranny”, and placing the Synode as a grave menace to Brazil’s soverignty over the  Amazon.

Ministry of the Environment facing new budget cuts

Fire prevention and control sector may be affected by budget cuts

Crédito: Marcos Corrêa/PR/Wikimedia Commons/via CC BY 2.0

4 Sep 19

Ministry of the Environment facing new budget cuts

The federal government budget  for 2020 predicts  a 10% cut for the Ministry of the Environment, in comparison to the 2019 approved budget. Even with the crisis related to Amazon deforestation and  fires, budget cuts will also impact the sectors that work on prevention and control  forest fires; it is estimated that the  sector will lose 34% of its  resources for next year.

Macron and Bolsonaro clash over Amazon fires


Crédito: Twitter

26 Aug 19

Macron and Bolsonaro clash over Amazon fires

Reacting to the trending coverage on forest fires, on the 22nd, French President Emannuel Macron used Twitter  to convene G7 country members  to discuss Amazon destruction, which he labelled as an “international crisis”. On the eve  of the G7 Summit  in Biarritz, he  posted that the forest produces 20%  of the global oxygen, along with a picture from 2003 and an inaccurate depiction of the Amazon as “lungs  of the world”. Macron’s comment came after UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres tweeted about his deep concerns with the forest fires. “The Amazon needs to be protected,” he wrote.


President Bolsonaro didn’t like Macron’s comments and used social media to reply on the same day. He accused the French President of meddling with an internal Brazilian issue, criticised the “sensationalist” tone of his post and the use of a ‘fake’ picture.


On the 23rd, Macron charged again and called Bolsonaro a ‘liar’ for not living up to the environmental compromises assumed at the Osaka  G20 summit in June. The French government said that, under such conditions, the ratification of Mercosul – EU trade deal could be off the table. President Bolsonaro once again replied on Twitter: “I’m sorry for the position of Chief of State calling another  president a liar. It was not us that published pictures from last century to fuel hate against  Brazil for sheer vanity. Our yellow and green country lives in hearts around the world”.


On the 24th, already at the G7 summit, Macron posted a video on social media saying he would like the meeting to respond to the crisis of the forest fires in the Amazon. ” The Amazon is our common good. We are all worried”.  Right after the publication, the Brazilian Presidency Press Secretary shared on Macron’s profile the video of the official announcement made earlier by president Bolsonaro on radio and TV. When listing measures to fight the fires in the Amazon, Bolsonaro stressed Brazil’s sovereignty on the issue. “Forest fires happen  all over the world and this can not be used  as a pretext for potential international sanctions,” he declared. 


Later that day, the provocations escalated when Bolsonaro commented on a picture posted by a follower that ironically compared Macron’s  and Bolsonaro’s wives based on their age and looks, implying that Macron would be ‘jealous’ of the Brazilian president because he  is married to a younger woman and thus attacking Brazil using forest fires. French and Brazilian feminist movements reacted.


On the 25th, the G7 announced its immediate support to fight Amazon fires in Brazil and other South American countries. When learning that German chancellor Angela Merkel would call him to clarify the G7 support, Bolsonaro claimed ‘victory’ against  Macron’s so called  ‘crisis’.


On the 26th,  during a press  conference, French president Macron rebuked the comment about his wife, classifying Bolsonaro as someone who is “extremely disrespectful”, adding that he believes that Brazilian women feel shame when reading such comments from their president. “With great friendship and respect for the Brazilian people, I hope that they will soon have a president that can  live up to the job,” he said. 


On twitter, Bolsonaro wrote that Brazil can not accept “unreasonable and gratuitous attacks to the Amazon” from  Macron, even if such attacks are undercovered  as an alliance of G7 countries to save the Amazon as if we were a colony or no one’s land”.

Amazon fires turn day into night in São Paulo

São Paulo sky, at around 3PM, on August 19


23 Aug 19

Amazon fires turn day into night in São Paulo

It was a cold Monday afternoon in São Paulo, the largest Brazilian city, located thousands of kilometers away from the Amazon.  Around 3 pm, the sky became dark and the day turned into night: it was no storm, but clouds of smoke and polluted water vapor that covered the entire metropolitan region. Meteorologists said that the phenomena was a combination between a cold wave and smoke from forest fires in Rondonia and Bolivia. The event made headlines around the world and created a momentum for national and international media coverage on the forest fires that had been ravaging several areas of the Amazon for weeks.

According to data from INPE, 52,5% of all Brazil’s  forest fires hotspots were concentrated in the Amazon region in 2019; the number of fires between January and August 18th increased 82% when compared to the previous year. Environmentalists and researchers associated the increased fires to the peaks in deforestation registered by INPE in June and July – which were stubbornly denied by the government and triggered the exoneration of INPE’s director in the beginning of August. INPE’s analysis were further corroborated by NASA, that said that it was possible to correlate the main fire hotspots with signature deforestation in the region, and not to other human activities such as clearing for preparing the land for cattle or crops. 

When asked about the crisis, president Bolsonaro chose to (again) blame NGOs. Referring to the cuts on Fundo Amazônia, he said: “Crime exists and we need to do what we can to  reduce this crime, but we took money away from NGOs. From  the international donations, we took 40% that would go to NGOs (…) We also cut  the public funding. So these people  are missing the money. ” He continued: “So there might be happening, it might, I am not affirming, criminal activity by these NGO guys to get negative attention against me personally, and against the government of Brazil. This is the war we have to fight”. The president said that his ‘feeling’ is that the criminal forest fires intend to generate dramatic images to the international audience.. “It seems  the fire  was  set in strategic places, all over the  Amazon. How is that possible? Not even you would be able to be everywhere setting the forest on fire to film and broadcast to  the world. All indicates that these people went there to film and set the fire. This is my feeling”. On social media, minister Ricardo Salles said the increase in forest  fires was a result of dry weather,  heat  and wind.

On the 21st, Ibama published an announcement to buy a new monitoring system for Amazon. The Planet system, from the USA, is expected to be chosen. Since the beginning of the year, Salles and Bolsonaro clashed with Inpe’s system, claimed the data was “fake” and exonerated the institute’s president, Ricardo Galvão. Salles has always advocated for a private monitoring system

Protests against forest fires are organized throughout Brazil

Protest in defense of the Amazon in Manaus, Amazona State

Crédito: Alberto César Araújo/Amazônia Real/via Fotos Públicas

23 Aug 19
Rural landowners organize ‘Day of the Fire” in the Amazon

Fires in Novo Progresso, Pará State, in August

Crédito: Lucas Landau/Greenpeace

14 Aug 19

Rural landowners organize ‘Day of the Fire” in the Amazon

On August 5th,  a local newspaper from the city  of Novo Progresso, in the southeast of Para state, revealed a coordinated movement led by regional farmers and land grabbers to promote the “Day of the Fire” on deforested areas on August 10th. According to the publication,  the farmers felt “backed by the words of the president” Bolsonaro and declared anonymously that the  coordinated fire was to “show to the president that they are willing to work”.  (Later investigations revealed  that at least 250 farmers coordinated via whatsapp).


The Public Prosecution office learned about the movement and, on August 8th, two days before the Day of the Fire, sent an urgent alert to Ibama asking for stronger presence of inspectors around protected areas in the region. However, Ibama responded to the prosecutors request only on August 12th, two days after the Day of the Fire. In its response, Ibama wrote that “due to several attacks suffered by IBAMA agents and the lack of support from the Para Military Police, our inspection operations are on hold because of concrete security risks to our field teams”. For many years, IBAMA maintained a base in Novo Progresso during the fire season, but in 2019 the operation was cancelled due to the absence of police and military forces. 

INPE monitored the region and detected an explosion of fires starting precisely on August 10th, the Day of the Fire. In Novo Progresso, hotspots increased by  300% in the days following the announcement. In Altamira, close to the BR163 highway, the hotspots increased by  743% after August 10th.

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