Emergency of Deforestation and Fires in the Amazon: Indigenous leader delivers urgent demands

Sunday, August 25, 2019

The recent escalation of deforestation fires in Brazil is one of the gravest attacks on the environment and indigenous peoples seen in recent decades, and has sparked an international outcry. In light of the G7 summit in France this week, French President Emmanuel Macron invited Kayapó leader Raoni Metuktire to deliver a speech, which was co-signed by 62 Brazilian civil society organizations and their partners, including International Rivers.

The joint statement was delivered by Raoni on Monday, August 26, and states that the Amazon burning crisis is a direct result of the dismantling of environmental policy by the Jair Bolsonaro government. The document also calls on the G7 countries to ensure effective mechanisms to prevent imports of Brazilian commodities produced in areas of recent severe environmental and human rights violations.

In addition to the speech, Raoni is featured in a video interview calling on Brazilian citizens and world leaders to put pressure on Bolsonaro to protect the Amazon. 

The meeting between the Brazilian leader and the French president took place in Biarritz, France, following the G7 meeting. During the meeting, leaders of the wealthiest nations bloc announced a $20 million USD Amazon protection fund, which includes reforestation.

The letter from the organizations states that the problems of burning and deforestation are longstanding, but worsened in 2019 as "a direct result of Jair Bolsonaro's behavior." The president made “the systematic and deliberate dismantling of the operational capacity of IBAMA and other federal agencies responsible for overseeing illegal acts of land grabbing, felling and burning, and logging and mining,” and made statements that signal impunity to environmental crimes.

"Bolsonaro is the main mentor of the problems that are happening in Brazil," Raoni told reporters after meeting with Macron. “Bolsonaro's position encourages farmers to set the fires because they feel supported by a head of state.”

The organizations are demanding the Brazilian government adopt a series of measures, including the moratorium on legislative projects that imply environmental setbacks, which will be discussed this week by former environment ministers with the mayor, and effective support for actions against environmental crimes.

Given their close interconnections, forest fires are highly detrimental for rivers and freshwater ecosystems in the Amazon.  Deforestation and burning are closely linked to land grabbing and predatory activities of timber, mining, and agribusiness interests, as well as construction of hydroelectric dams and other major infrastructure projects with cumulative impacts that are typically downplayed.  

International Rivers calls on supporters to contribute to emergency efforts by Amazon Watch, and Fundo Socioambiental CASA that facilitate financial and capacity building support to grassroots and community groups on the frontlines in Brazil. Stay tuned for updates about upcoming actions.

More information: 

Read the full declaration in English and Portuguese.