The Amazon is burning
Indigenous habitats destroyed, their future unclear (Press Release)
Meanwhile, the Amazon has been burning for almost two weeks. According to the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research (INPE), 36 indigenous protected areas are affected by the fires. "Hundreds of indigenous communities are forced to watch their habitats burn," stated Regina Sonk, one of the experts on indigenous peoples of the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP). "Their future is completely uncertain. In addition to the environmental disaster, a humanitarian catastrophe is inevitable."
Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro is not only an enemy of the rainforest, he is also a threat to the indigenous communities in the region. "The Bolsonaro government wants to exploit the Amazon region economically. Thus, indigenous rights and protected areas are in his way – and in the way of the large agrarian corporations he makes policy for," Sonk emphasized. Therefore, it is unlikely that his government will compensate those affected. "For them, the fires mean more than the end of their livelihood. Their cultural heritage is inseparably linked to the region as well," stated the STP-expert. "It is to be feared that their traditions, their knowledge, and the culture of entire peoples will disappear in the flames."
The extent of the fire catastrophe, however, is a direct consequence of the president's far-right policy: He has virtually disempowered all state institutions that could actually do something against the destruction of the rainforest. At the same time, he massively restricted the room for maneuver of the country's NGOs, and he is now using the fires to publicly defame them. "Since he took office, there have been hardly any consequences for attacks on indigenous peoples – causing corporations and individual farmers to take initiative themselves," says Regina Sonk. Fire clearing has been common in the region for years, as a means to make room for soybean cultivation and livestock. In the current dry phase, it was only a matter of time before the fires would become uncontrollable.
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