The President of Brazil’s Workers Party (PT), Gleisi Hoffman, has denounced Jair Bolsonaro’s destruction of the Amazon rainforest in a recent speech made in August 2019 which can be read in full below.
Under Bolsonaro’s Presidency deforestation has been actively encouraged with disastrous results for Brazil and the entire world. The Brazilian people are resisting Bolsonaro’s environmentally destructive policies. As fires rage through the Amazon rainforest President Bolsonaro personal disapproval rating has reached an all-time high of 53.7%.
Ladies and gentlemen who accompany us on social networks, on TV Câmara and on Rádio Câmara, I come to this assembly today in great sadness, to talk about deforestation in our Amazon jungle, about the fires and about the disrespect for the Brazilian environment.
A technical note from the Amazon Environmental Research Institute says that the Amazonian fires in 2019 are caused by deforestation, not drought. The number of hot spots in the Amazon is already 60% higher than that of the last 3 years and this surge is related to deforestation, not drought. “There is no such thing as natural fire in the Amazon,” says the Environmental Research Institute, “what there are, are people who start fires that can worsen and turn into huge forest fires.”
This is very sad because it damages our environment but it also damages the lives of our native people, indigenous people and residents of quilombolas [traditional communities of descendants of escaped slaves]. This also damages the health of the people living in the Amazon region. It also damages Brazil’s production. It took us a long time to get an environmental seal of approval for our agricultural products and livestock and this is now all being thrown in the trash. It is being thrown in the trash by a President of the Republic who in my view was illegitimately elected but who now occupies the chair of President. And this President of the Republic is encouraging deforestation, he is the one encouraging the fires. In fact, he says he is proud that he is nicknamed “the chainsaw President” and now he is saying that he is President Nero.
And it is due to this President’s position – that he thinks that the Amazon should be deforested – that farmers in Pará sadly declared a “Fire Day”. That is right – a small newspaper from Pará called Folha do Progresso, from the town of Novo Progresso, published an article saying that a group of farmers there, encouraged by the words of Jair Bolsonaro, organized and coordinated the burning of pastures and areas where deforestation is underway together on August 10th.
These insane fires didn’t just damage the population in the region, they damaged the entire nation. The day turned to night in Sao Paulo – the day turned to night in Sao Paulo. We had smoke problems, the environmental problems were aggravated, our communities, our animals…. Well, this chainsaw president is encouraging all of these demonstrations. In fact, Brazil is being rejected around the world, Congressman Célio, because deforestation in the Amazon registered a 278% increase compared to this month last year.
This is the data recorded by INPE, an internationally recognized institute in which Bolsonaro intervened and banned from disclosing data. This Brazilian environmental crisis is so serious that Germany and Norway have suspended their contributions of 283 million to the Amazon fund, an international partnership created by Lula in 2008. Bolsonaro said he does not need this money, but last week he said he has run out of money, that Brazil has no money, that the Ministries have no money. So how does he reject money that could help us protect our environment?
I wonder where are the Armed Forces, where is the National Security Force to help with this environmental protection, this defense of our Amazon? The Armed Forces and the National Security Force were always an important part of the Lula and Dilma government’s policies to protect the Amazon region. I would like to know from the generals who are in the Bolsonaro government – please answer – what are you doing with the Brazilian Armed Forces? They are helping embarrass Brazil.
While I am speaking of Lula and Dilma, I would like to remind you what these governments meant for the environment. In 2014, Brazil gained recognition from the UN as a model in fighting deforestation that should be emulated around the World. The UN attributed this to the success of Lula’s forest conservation policies, which were started in the 2000s. “Changes in the Brazilian Amazon over the past decade”, said the UN, “and the contribution this has made to slowing global warming are unprecedented.” This is from a UN report.
Lula reduced annual deforestation in the Amazon from 27,772 km2 in 2004 to just 7,002 km in 2010, according to data from the National Space Research Institute, INPE, which Bolsonaro wants to close. And you know what is most tragic, Congressman Célio Moura? That on orders from Bolsonaro, Itamaraty [The Brazilian Diplomatic corps] has sent telegrams to all the embassies citing this data so that our ambassadors can defend Brazil from attacks against it for not caring about its environment. But they are so fraudulent,they are such scoundrels that they are not saying that this data dates from the governments of Lula and Dilma. Because in the Bolsonaro government, as I mentioned, deforestation has increased by 278%. So they changed the dates! It’s shameful!
During our governments, Lula and Dilma’s, deforestation dropped by 82%. 82%! I was Chief of Staff and had the honor of working with Environmental Minister Izabella [Teixeira]. We mobilized the National Security Force to work in Amazonia and the advantages and improvements during Lula and Dilma’s governments were immense – so much so that Itamaraty is now using our data, data from our governments, to try to defend Brazil. This is despicable!
I would also like to repudiate what Rede Globo’s Jornal Nacional news program did when it compared Lula to Bolsonaro. Lula never allowed any country to intervene here in Brazil. On the issue of the environment he always said that no countries could blame Brazil for things they didn’t do to protect their land. He was right, but unlike Bolsonaro, Lula said he was going to show Brazil and the world that it was possible to have environmental protection along with agriculture and sustainable production, and he did that. In Lula’s time, we balanced expanding agricultural production with environmental protection.
Former Minister Blairo Maggi gave an interview two weeks ago saying that is afraid for what will happen to our the international trade in grains and our agricultural production due to the reckless things Bolsonaro is saying and doing. He is afraid we will lose the environmental seal. This would be detrimental to the Brazilian economy. This is what these these politically stupid people have to understand. So I want to repudiate the Jornal Nacional news program – the difference was huge, Jornal Nacional. Retract what you said. We have filed a request for your retraction. I would like to say I was assigned, as president of the PT, by the Forum of Opposition Party Presidents to send a document to the United Nations system directorate office here in Brazil, asking it to receive us because we want to request…. I invite all political parties that defend the environment and human rights to join us – this is not an ideological or a political issue. We want to request a hearing with Michelle Bachelet to give her a report about what is happening in the Brazil.
The United Nations, which has already praised Brazil, needs to be here. It needs to observe what is happening in human rights and the environment. It needs to help Brazil. We also want a committee of members of Congress – and we will request this from Congressional President Rodrigo Maia – to meet with the UN Secretary-General to talk about the Brazilian environmental and human rights situation. It is essential that we make this complaint about what is happening in Brazil. We want to be respected again, we want worldwide recognition for how we treat our forests, the rights of our first nation communities, the rights of our people. Therefore, we will resort to the United Nations system, to which Brazil is a part, to denounce what is happening here.
But more than this, I want to call on our PT activists and the social movements to join the demonstrations that are being called for on the streets. There are many of them, Mr. Célio, that are being organized for this weekend in defense of the Amazon jungle, to defense of that which is one of the greatest resources that we have, a differential among all countries, which, unfortunately due the stupidity, ignorance, bad faith and lack of commitment to national sovereignty, Jair Bolsonaro is trying to destroy. I appeal to everyone here, for all patriots to join us to defend Brazil.
This article was previously published on Eyes on Latin America.