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January 1, 2019 – Forty-six environmental groups, academic organizations, human rights organizations, labor unions, faith-based groups and other civil society organizations have vowed to oppose any “hateful rhetoric and acts of violence, intimidation or persecution” by the incoming government of Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, as they proclaim in an open statement today.
The groups, which include the Brazilian Studies Association, Amazon Watch and the AFL-CIO, along with Friends of the Earth U.S., express concern about “positions held by the president-elect that represent a serious threat to democracy, human rights and the environment,” and “wish to reaffirm our support for the courageous individuals and groups in Brazil that strive to uphold constitutionally protected rights and freedoms in an increasingly challenging environment.”
“The election of right-wing extremist Jair Bolsonaro as Brazil’s next president represents a crisis for indigenous rights, the Amazon rainforest, and our global climate,” said Christian Poirier, Amazon Watch Program Director. “A spike in violent attacks against indigenous peoples and social movements has already occurred since the election. Brazil’s human rights and environmental community will not back down in the face of this emergency, and neither will we in our support for them.”
The statement describes how “Bolsonaro has threatened to slash environmental safeguards on the Amazon’s protected forests while abolishing constitutional land rights over indigenous territories in order to enable the expansion of destructive agribusiness, logging and mining operations.”
Writing that “President-elect Bolsonaro has frequently taken positions that are fundamentally at odds with democratic values,” the signers of the statement detail how Bolsonaro threatened not to recognize the presidential election results if he wasn’t proclaimed the winner and that he’s spoken favorably of Brazil’s former military dictatorship. They also noted that he has talked of purging left-wing activists and has described members of the Landless Workers’ Movement and Movement of Homeless Workers as “terrorists.” He has said that Brazil’s police, already notorious for killing thousands of people every year, should have less restraint in using lethal force and he seeks a more militarized response to crime.
The statement notes: “Two MST leaders were assassinated by masked gunmen on Dec. 8,” and “many fear that Bolsonaro’s hateful and threatening rhetoric is making Brazil – already the world leader in killings of land and environmental defenders – a much more dangerous place for activists.” It also details various misogynistic, racist and homophobic comments that Bolsonaro has made, which many also see as contributing to a social and political climate that encourages violence and hatred toward minority communities.
“It is important that people in these communities in Brazil who have struggled so long for equality know that they are not alone. We will support them,” commented Dr. Gladys Mitchell-Walthour, president of the Brazil Studies Association. “We will do our best to support Brazilian academics, activists, and citizens in general. We do not support anti-democratic actions by leaders and citizens.”
“It is hard to exaggerate the threat that Bolsonaro poses to minority communities in Brazil, including to indigenous communities already threatened by extractive industries and land-grabbers,” said Jeff Conant, Senior International Forests Program Manager at Friends of the Earth U.S. “No less severe is the danger that Bolsonaro represents for Brazil’s invaluable rainforest and other environmental treasures, or indeed to the planet itself, since he seems to disregard climate change and to put business interests before everything else.”