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Stop Bolsonaro: in defense of Pantanal and Amazônia

At Places des Nations, in Geneva, protesters gathered to call out Bolsonaro's environmental policies.

By Isabela Carrozza Joia

On Sunday, October 11th, close to 50 people reunited at Places des Nations, in Geneva, to protest against Bolsonaro’s environmental policies. The movement called “Stop Bolsonaro Worldwide” is in its 3rd edition, and last Sunday, it was present in 18 countries: from  Germany to Mexico, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Brazil itself. In Geneva, the movement was realized by the Grito Collectif, with support from nine other organizations, including the Latin American Network Initiative from the Graduate Institute of Geneva.

The 3rd edition of “Stop Bolsonaro” focused on raising awareness for the ongoing fires occurring in the Amazon and Pantanal in Brazil. The Amazon is the largest tropical forestry in the world and famous for its biodiversity and vastness. The Pantanal, although not so well-known, is the world’s largest wetland, and due to its location between rainforest and Paraguay’s dry forest, attracts many animal species1. Together, Pantanal and the Amazon account for the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet, which are under intense threat due to the rise in environmental crimes over the past two years.

This September, the Amazon had more registered fires than September 2019, according to INPE, the National Institute for Space Research in Brazil. With more than 2,000 fire outbreaks, they are mainly human-induced by loggers who take advantage of the dry season to burn logs previously cut down. In Pantanal, the situation is even more worrisome, where the fires are at their worst since August 2005, having quadrupled the size of the ones in the Amazon. On September 6, the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro noted that a record of Pantanal’s 23,490 square kilometers had already burned, which account for nearly 16% of its total area2.

In the face of these alarming numbers and ongoing devastation, Bolsonaro’s government in Brazil has not responded adequately. In fact, its environmental policies are controversial and becoming more militarized as his term develops. For instance, the Army was deployed to the Amazon under the Operation Green Brazil 2 to fight environmental crimes. However, the results have been minimal, since deforestation and fires are still high when compared to past years. The current Minister for Environment, Ricardo Salles, is also a controversial political figure, holding a stance that aligns with the criminal loggers and miners. In fact, in a recorded Ministerial meeting in April 2020, Salles affirmed that the government had taken advantage of the press being focused on covering the COVID-19 Pandemic to deregulate many environmental policies3

During the protest on Sunday afternoon, the organizers made speeches about these controversial situations in Brazil, which not only highlighted the Bolsonaro government’s environmental neglect, but raised awareness on the current murderers of indigenous populations. In fact, many of them spoke about it being a genocide, since during the current administration, there has been a rise of attacks against indigenous people due to its demarcation by agrarian interests. Not only conflicts rose, but the current COVID-19 pandemic has also affected these populations intensely, making them one of the most vulnerable groups in Brazil afflicted by it, with more than 25.415 cases contabilized in August 20204.

Following the organizers and supporters speeches, a student representative of LANI spoke, Matheus Fontes, a Brazilian International Law student at the Institute and current Vice-President of LANI. Fontes spoke in Portuguese, affirming that “we cannot move away from the responsibility to oppose, condemn and denounce a policy that encourages deforestation and promotes the destruction of our forests, our animals and our ecological balance.”. He ended by saying that “LANI makes itself available to our student community in Latin America to oppose any violations of human and environmental rights. Stop Bolsonaro!”

Graduate Institute students present holding a sign that reads “Bolsonaro is a genocide” alongside the number of victims from COVID-19 

Although the movement gathered mostly the Brazilian community in Geneva, many IHEID students from Latin America and other regions of the world were present to support it. Daniel Quiroga-Villamarin, a PhD student in International Law at IHEID from Colombia, stated that participating in the movement was important because “what is happening in Brazil [is] happening throughout the continent. The attacks against the peoples of America, against the environment on the continent, it is a struggle that concerns not only Switzerland, but all around the world.”

From speeches to “ciranda”, a type of dance from the state of Pernambuco in Brazil, the Stop Bolsonaro movement in Geneva tackled to put international pressure on Bolsonaro’s policies by connecting the protesters and bringing a part of Brazil’s culture to Place des Nations. Although it aimed at raising awareness for the Amazon and Pantanal’s fires, the organizers also focused on issues related to the current neglect to control the COVID-19 Pandemic in Brazil, which accounts for 5,091,840 total cases and surpassed a death toll of 150,000 this last weekend. 

Photos by Delcia Orona.

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