Lula and a Respite for the Amazon

By Andres Kogan Valderrama

HAVANA TIMES – The narrow victory of Lula Da Silva over Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil’s first-round presidential elections wasn’t completely the hoped-for result, given the unpredicted high number of votes for the ultra-right incumbent. Still, it does offer us certain hope for the region’s future, especially for those who see climate change denial as one of the chief political threats of our times.

We mustn’t underestimate this aspect of the ultra-right’s discourse. In the face of the crisis of representative democracy in the world, and of the institutions that sustain it, personalities like Jair Bolsonaro, Donald Trump, Javier Milei or Jose Antonio Kast advocate a very dangerous political current – ferociously anti-communist, Christian fundamentalist and libertarian nationals that have no qualms about openly denying the existence of the patriarchy, colonialism and also the urgent environmental crisis.

It’s this latter denial – the environmental – that makes it a life-or-death issue that Bolsonaro not continue as Brazil’s president, given his dismantling of environmental policies in the country. During his term in office, he not only reduced the budget for conservation by 71%, but also increased deforestation by 56.6% between 2019 and 2021[1], endangering life on the entire planet.

Let’s not forget that 67% of the Amazon’s 2.587 million square miles lie within Brazil. Because of that, this should be a living territory that is internationally protected by the United Nations, beyond Bolsonaro’s claim that it’s his country. His view is beyond clumsy and incapable of seeing that the planet is systematically interconnected.

Hence, if Bolsonaro were to win the presidency in the second-round, this would only generate more deaths of all those people who have defended the environment. In the case of Brazil, this struggle is dramatic, as it’s the country in the world with the largest number of murders of those defending their lands and the environment, with 342 assassinations in the last ten years, according to reports from Global Witness.[2]

If Lula Da Silva once more becomes president of Brazil, maybe he won’t make the defense of life a centerpiece of his administration or generate truly sustainable policies that put the brakes on the extractivism rampant in the region, but at least the Amazon region will have a respite and a new opportunity.

Of course, we mustn’t forget that while he was president, Lula, like the rest of the so-called progressive governments in the region, wasn’t capable of proposing an ecological regional integration, or designing post-extractivist transitions. In that sense, he deepened his dependence on the so-called natural resources, but at least there’s some concern on his part for the harm that’s been generated.

I’m referring to Lula’s platform if elected president, which refers to combatting environmental crimes, prohibiting mining on the indigenous lands and strengthening the National Environmental system and the National Indigenous Foundation.

True, what he’s proposing is very little for a country with such an enormous responsibility in the Amazon region, which represents 40% of the world’s tropical forestland, 25% of all of the planet’s biodiversity, and is key in the context of global warming and the dangers of destroying the minimum conditions for reproducing life.

Nonetheless, his opponent is a person who views the Amazon region as nothing more than a limitless source of resources to exploit. He has even voiced the outrageous idea that those of us who want to protect it are part of a leftist plot, engineered by the UN to interfere with his sovereignty.

Because of this, as eco-theologian Leonardo Boff stated so well in an interview, Jair Bolsonar has the characteristics of an anti-Christ, by being an enemy of life, since he usurps the name of Messiah to deceive his people and treats the indigenous peoples as inferior beings.[3]  This should make those who support and believe the lies Boff pointed out, engage in some reflection.

The people of Brazil will have the final word on October 30, the day of the second-round presidential election. It’s a day when the whole world should be watching what goes on, since what’s at stake is much more than the fate of a country. It’s also the fate of a planet that desperately needs a complete pivot in the ways we relate to ourselves and to the rest of the living beings, after centuries of believing we’re somehow above Nature.




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