Bolsonaro Denounced at the UN for Depredation of the Amazon

Dario Pignotti Kopenawa, leader of the Yanomani ethnic group, travelled to Geneva to warn about the critical situation in the Amazon. Photo: AFP.

A delegation composed of Yanomani leader Davi Kopenawa and Brazilian NGOs travelled to Geneva, Switzerland, to warn of the dramatic situation in the Amazon, the world’s largest tropical forest, in the face of invasion of the reserves, burning and killings.

“The white men (…) are content to attack our forest, which is not their land, but they declare that it belongs to them, they think ‘we are going to tear out their gold and cut down their trees'”, Kopenawa told the plenary of the 43rd session of the Human Rights Council in which he denounced President Jair Bolsonaro.

The body, headed by former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, has received numerous complaints from Amazon communities since last year about the scorched earth policy and the risk of “genocide” and “ethnocide”.

Davi Kopenawa said: “the new president of Brazil, I don’t mention his name” from the moment he arrived at the Planalto Palace has been saying “let the white men who want money come” to enrich themselves through the “contamination of our rivers, the burning of the trees”.

The government of the former army captain is the first since the end of the military dictatorship, in 1985, to conduct an openly hostile policy towards the indigenous communities of the Amazon, added anthropologist Manuela Carneiro da Cunha.

“The executive branch is conducting an ostensive campaign emboldening land squatters, loggers, and mineral resource exploiters who are threatening indigenous peoples with genocide,” Carneiro da Cunha told Página/12. “We use the word genocide because it is the correct word,” she said.

The NGOs Comission Paulo Evaristo Arns and the Socioenvironmental Institute accompanied Chief Kopenawa on his visit to Geneva, and on Tuesday participated in a meeting with other international civil society entities where the reality of the native peoples was discussed once again.

The most serious situation is faced by some “120 isolated indigenous peoples who are very vulnerable to the first contact” with people outside their territories, since they can transmit diseases for which they have no defenses, Carneiro de Cunha said.

In November 2019, the Arns Commission asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague to open a “preliminary investigation” into the Brazilian government’s measures that threaten the survival of indigenous peoples.

That initiative before the ICC had the support of the Advocacy and Human Rights Collective, and could lead to a process that would continue “even after Bolsonaro leaves office,” says the anthropologist. Because of his far-right positions, insults to indigenous leaders and the devastation of the Amazon, Bolsonaro has become one of the most repudiated leaders in the world.

This is evident from a brief review of his international agenda. Or his non-international agenda. Last year he was forced to suspend an announced trip to New York to avoid dealing with the protests of environmentalists and LGBT activists. He later promised, but in the end did not deliver, a trip to Italy, which he cancelled due to the fall of his friend, former interior minister Matteo Salvini, also of the extreme right.

Last January, he cancelled his participation in the Davos Economic Forum, presumably because he had been warned about the questions that the press and NGOs had prepared for him about the depredation of the Amazon. The president’s discredit is damaging his “credibility” in the eyes of public opinion and international bodies like the ICC and the UN Human Rights Council, “which still maintains its moral strength,” Carneiro da Cunha said in this telephone conversation from São Paulo.

In this regard, the researcher recalled the controversy between the governor and actor Leonardo DiCaprio over the forest fires in 2019, when the area destroyed by fire was 90 percent larger than that of 2018. “Bolsonaro went so far as to accuse DiCaprio of encouraging the fires, something that is laughable and nobody believed it at the international level, it was something crude because it is known that Bolsonaro has a great affinity with the groups that demonize and set fires”.

Translation by Internationalist 360°