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Into The Chaos: Dissecting Brazilian Politics

On the ominous day of 5th August, a local news station reported the plan ‘Day Of Fire’. Subsequently, on 10th August, farmers and ranchers coordinated to set ablaze the forest cover and soon after #PrayforAmazonas #AmazonRainforest started trending on the internet with distressing images of Forest Fires.

Amid the burning fires of the Amazon forest came a neutral reply from the White House - ‘He is working very hard and has the full support of the USA.’ Back came a hearty reply, ‘Thanks, Mr. President!’

In such an exceptionally politically charged atmosphere around conversations about climate change, the West has actively intervened to draw conventions around the same; this neutral charge was initially rather benumbed. However given the political stance of the leaders, now the dialogue seems expected.

The steady burning of rainforests to clear land wiped away as much as 30 percent of land between the years 2018-19. These figures continued to grow in 2020 with an added layer of the deadly pandemic to the never ending list of grave agendas, yet this practice continues to reap its profits through the unsustainable bowels of flame. Recovery of the green cover lags far behind the damage done so far. The surge in deforestation around the Amazon forest reflects the far-right political nature of the current president of Brazil and their narrowed definitions of growth.

But what factors exactly contribute to this continued upsurge?

Cattle Ranching

Key findings suggest that the livestock sector contributed to about 8.5% of Brazil’s GDP. Beef is one of the driving factors behind it. Emerging markets such as China, Egypt, the US, and EU largely contribute to its exports. Think tank ‘Chain Reaction Research’ also notes that about 80 percent of the deforestation is on account of cattle ranching. The issue grounds itself in the increasing carbon footprint of this due process. Beef manufacturing creates the highest amount of carbon footprint. Despite this dire consequence, a major chunk of profits and emissions lie under the leading beef manufacturers of the state with no benefit to the holistic growth of the economy.

Considering the existing corruption problem in the country, the leading beef manufacturing firm JBS was also on the hit under the charge of bribing officials to approve unfit standards of production and the firm still looms under this apprehension. Research also points out that the leading manufacturers are still not monitoring their indirect supply chains, which explains the observance of cattle laundering, violation of indigenous rights, and forced labor.Considering the stack of growth that lies upon the capitalistic, well-established corporations that solely rely on the illegal occupation of land, once busted, this operation is going to fall to shackles all at once, which is far more disastrous to an emerging economy.

Development Or Deterioration?

The present policy initiatives under president Jair Bolsonaro come within the umbrella of development however they are deeply contentious to environmentalists.

Present policies have opened up the delicate reserves, already looming with problems of corruption and illegal occupation ranging to mining activities, thus causing harm to indigenous communities. The bill is labelled as ‘land grab’ by the critics and represents a negative picture of the legislation that allows squatters to now make legal claims over land.

Unfulfilled And Unknown

When faced with the obligations of adopting sustainable practices, most manufacturing firms shift the responsibility to circumstance and continue to avoid accountability. Most of the manufacturers claim to follow the forest norms and profess that they do not violate their sustainability agreements however they also add that they do purchase from indirect buyers whom they cannot trace, thus the norms end up becoming futile. There exist softwares such as Visipec to track the supply chain; however, its implementation will be expected around 2025.

Violence And Violation

Adding to the long list of unfulfilled objectives, is the notorious record of violence related to land grabbings and encroachments. Organizations such as ‘Human Rights Watch’ further highlight the significant number of illegal activities through intimidation and power and state how government officials repeatedly fail to acknowledge the same.

Brazil stands in the third position as the country’s most lethal location for environmental and human rights defenders. Such figures show how the country fails to acknowledge its own ecosystem, its people, and resources associated with it. The geopolitical factors also come into play as the country shares its boundaries with countries like Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana which have high crime rates.

Risk of being stranded

Global media coverage of the Amazon fires induced a great deal of responsibility on the big manufacturing firms to switch to sustainable practices and also on the Brazilian government through a series of investment shocks.In 2019, 230 global investors with over US$ 16.2 trillion in assets issued statements over the forest fires and its difficulty to assess global markets after the same. It also resulted in declining investor confidence and several other firms cutting their budget to exclude some of the top Brazilian agro-based firms.

How far is the change?

President Bolsonaro won the 2018 elections with overwhelming support. This far-right victory was not a surprise. Why so? Currently, crime and violence play a very close role in the nexus of politics. Bolsonaro’s far-right approach also calls for authoritarianism to deal with such crimes and acted as a selling point in his election campaign. The long-existing problem of corruption has always irked the voters. It is a no-brainer that with such a history of large-scale corruption, people have started losing confidence in the system. Operation Car Wash was one such big scandal involving the former president of the Workers party ‘Lula de Silva.’ Such incidents showcase the narrowing confidence of people in politics.This fear of corruption and violence is the driving force of Brazilian politics.

A 2016 Latinobarometro poll from over 18 Latin American countries points out that only 32 percent of people support the democratic government.

Bolsonaro’s entry on one end looks upon bringing extensive policies to ease access to arms and ammunition while the indigenous communities are still fighting with sticks and arrows to protect the forest.

While some are practicing violent means to grab hold of the land, Brazil appoints its military to deal with the same, but for how long should violence be meted out with violence?As one of the findings from Brookings Institution notes, "It is the lack of trust in the government that may be one of the foundational barriers to effective environmental action.”

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