The lure of valuable resources in the forest mean incursions into indigenous lands and violence against those who resist is nothing new in Brazil.
But some experts say Bolsonaro’s rhetoric and actions have created a culture of impunity.
Earlier this month, Bolsonaro signed an environmental decree that establishes higher fines for deforestation, illegal logging, burning, fishing and hunting, with the government saying it is “an important step in the environmental law.”
Brazil has unveiled its plan to protect the Amazon. Critics say it's not enough
Brazil has unveiled its plan to protect the Amazon. Critics say it’s not enough
But in a series of actions since he came into power in 2019, Bolsonaro’s administration has effectively weakened federal environmental agencies, demonized organizations working to preserve the rainforest, and rallied for economic growth on indigenous lands, arguing that it is for indigenous groups’ own welfare.
His rhetoric in particular — with calls to “develop,” “colonize,” and “integrate” the Amazon — has “effectively given a green light” to criminal networks involved in the illegal logging and mining trade, said César Muñoz, a senior Americas researcher at HRW and an expert on environmental defenders in indigenous communities.
And although Bolsonaro’s administration has previously deployed the country’s military to defend the Amazon from illegal logging and land clearing, Munoz says the move ultimately sidelined staffers from the country’s environmental agency IBAMA, resulting in the loss of environmental expertise.
IBAMA and the President’s office did not respond to CNN’s requests for comment.