Two very different models of management of the Amazon rainforest face each other this Sunday at the Brazilian polls: President far-right Jair Bolsonaroand the former president leftist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silvathe favorites at the polls, already have experience in managing environmental policy and citizens know what to expect from both candidates.
Bolsonaro has been heavily criticizedboth within the country and internationally, for having cut the budget allocated to the management and protection of nature, as well as for having closed environmental defense institutions in a mandate that has accelerated the destruction of the Amazon.
“His legacy is a disaster that in many cases leaves irreparable damage. There has been an advance in deforestation, illegal activities, invasions of public lands and indigenous territories, and the representation of civil society in environmental councils, which are directly associated with the disastrous management of the federal government in the environmental area. “, says Mercedes Bustamante, professor of Ecology at the University of Brasilia and member of the Climate Crisis Consultative Group.
The Amazon deforestation of public land -not including those of state or private ownership- it has grown 56.6 percent on average per year since Bolsonaro is president, while greenhouse gas emissions have risen 9.5 percent. It had been three decades since there had been such a level of destruction in the main tropical forest on the planet.
“The costs are enormous and a lot of work will be necessary to rebuild trust in the control processes and in the force of the law,” considers the environmentalist Bustamante.
The president came to power supported by the agribusiness sector and suggesting take Brazil out of the Paris climate agreement, something it ultimately did not doalthough he has continued to criticize “colonialism” in the position of the international community regarding the preservation of the Amazon.
“The president’s policy in the environmental area has always been focused on those who support him within the country and is based on a distorted, backward and unscientific perception of the uses of national resources”Bustamante comments.
“The pressure from the international community continues to be very important to influence other actors in the economy and in Congress,” adds the ecologist.
The Bolsonaro government has been singled out for not having controlled the illegal land occupation, especially affecting indigenous peoples. In 2021 there were 305 reported cases of reported invasion of indigenous land, 180% more than in 2018, according to official data.
Some of these invasions produce fires which have increased in the first half of this 2022 by 16% compared to the same period of the previous year, assuming the highest record in more than a decade.
The president has questioned on numerous occasions the figures given by the official agencies themselves. It is committed to freedom for the exploration of the Amazon economy, which it ensures translates into nature tourism, handicrafts and sustainable extractivism.
His management has not been without scandals. The former environment ministerRicardo Salles, left the Government after investigations were carried out against him for his possible relationship with a system of illegal export of illegally harvested wood from the wild.
Lula against deforestation
His greatest rival at the polls, Lula da Silvathat leads the latest polls with between 48 percent and 50 percent voting intention -between 14 and 17 points more than Bolsonaro- and would be close to winning in the first round, has proposed end illegal mining and deforestation.
Analysts remember, yes, that Lula also has a uneven environmental record. The former president, who governed the country between 2003 and 2010, was widely criticized for having promoted the Belo Monte Amazonian hydroelectric dam, which displaced 40,000 people and dried up sections of a river on which the communities in the area depended, later assuring that he would do it again because it was necessary to cover the country’s energy production.
However, he is also remembered for reduce by 85% the loss of forests in the country by 2012 hand in hand with his former Minister of the Environment, Marina Silva, who generated far-reaching environmental policies, but later distanced himself from Lula for political reasons.
The Amazon suffers the worst fires in ten years
The Brazilian Amazon region is suffering the worst fires of the last ten years, as reported this Saturday by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE). In September have been counted 41,282 firesa figure without equal since September 2012. In September the fire season ends, which covers from June to October.
In most cases, fires have their origin in the human action and seeks to seize land from the jungle for cultivation and livestock. However, it reduces the forest mass, key to retaining and processing CO2 and therefore vital to curb climate change.
Environmental protection is one of the key issues of the presidential elections this Sunday. President and candidate Jair Bolsonaro highlights the economic potential of the Amazon in agriculture and mining.
His rival, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, has promised to strengthen environmental and climate protection. Lula is the clear favorite in the polls.