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Resisting Brazil’s Retreat from Green

Since Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro took office in 2019, the country’s executive, legislative, and judicial branches have decimated the environmental agenda and trampled the rights of indigenous peoples. With deforestation in the Amazon increasing, the world’s hope for climate justice is as threatened as Brazil’s democracy.

RIO DE JANEIRO – Since Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro took office in 2019, the fate of the Amazon and its indigenous peoples has been hanging by a thread. With the executive, legislative, and judicial branches having now decimated the environmental agenda, Brazil’s pathways toward a greener future seem bleak.

In 2021, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon reached its highest level since 2006, while illegal mining in the legally protected Yanomami indigenous lands increased by 46%. Such gold mining led not only to malaria and mercury exposure, but also to unprecedented violence against indigenous peoples. In 2019, there were 277 registered cases of such violence, including 113 murders, 33 death threats, 16 cases of racist and ethno-cultural discrimination, and ten instances of sexual violence.

The exploitation and destruction of the world’s largest rainforest relies on well-known methods. For starters, Bolsonaro’s government has neutered agencies created to protect the environment and indigenous peoples. They include the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources, the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation, and the National Foundation for the Indigenous.

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