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The Intercept - August 2019

THIS SUMMER, fires are being used to clear wide swaths of the Amazon at an unprecedented rate. One-fifth of the Amazon has already been destroyed in the past 50 years; further industrialization of the rainforest risks destroying another fifth, a loss that would be catastrophic for the global ecosystem.

The disaster is widely blamed on interests seeking to clear the world’s largest rainforest for cattle ranching, mining, and export-focused agribusiness. Documents reveal that those interests are being pushed in the U.S. by Republican lobbyists, friendly with President Donald Trump’s administration, who entered into talks with the Brazilian government to promote corporate investment in the Amazon.

The crisis in the Amazon comes as Brazil is now governed by an administration openly hostile to environmental concerns and Indigenous communities. President Jair Bolsonaro, a former Army captain once viewed as a fringe figure in Brazilian politics, has referred to himself as “Captain Chainsaw” for his drive to promote logging and agribusiness in the Amazon.

Shortly after taking office in January, Bolsonaro slashed funding for Brazil’s main environmental agency by 24 percent. And this week, after a report by Brazil’s space research center revealed that fires in the Amazon are up 83% this year, Bolsonaro blamed the fires on international NGOs rather than his own anti-environmental policies.

MEANWHILE, A MEMBER of the Brazilian government has contracted with Washington lobbyists to continue selling land and destroying the forest.

In June, Wilson Lima, the governor of the state of Amazonas, a northwestern province in Brazil that governs approximately a third of the Amazon, including the epicenter of the current forest fire crisis, began work with the Interamerica Group, a Washington, D.C.–based lobbying firm founded by Jerry Pierce Jr. Kellen Felix, a Brazilian national and vice president at Interamerica Group, is also listed in a disclosure filing for work with the state of Amazonas. Lima, elected last year, is a member of PSC, a conservative party affiliated with the Assembly of God, a rapidly growing Pentecostal church in Brazil. ...
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