News Release

Why is the Amazon Burning? 


In January, warned in a news release that the far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro “Wants to Plunder the Amazon. Don’t Let Him.”

Now, under Brazil’s far-right leader, the New York Times is reporting Amazon protections are being slashed and forests fall as Sao Paulo, the largest city in the Western Hemisphere, is plunged into darkness during the day as thick smoke from Amazon wildfires blankets the city.

As environmental defenders — often while fighting agribusiness — are being violently silencedNational Geographic is reporting that a “world food crisis looms if carbon emissions go unchecked, UN says.”

Open Democracy is reporting: “Leaked documents show Brazil’s Bolsonaro has grave plans for Amazon rainforest.”

MARIA LUISA MENDONÇA, marialuisam222 at
Maria Luisa Mendonça holds a PhD in Human Geography from the University of São Paulo, is co-director of the Network for Social Justice and Human Rights in Brazil and is currently a visiting scholar at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York City. She said today: “The international community needs to send a strong message to the far-right government in Brazil because its policies are stimulating unprecedented environmental destruction in the Amazon, with dramatic consequences to climate change around the world. Destroying the Amazon to open space for agribusiness will not bring economic development to Brazil because [its] agricultural system is a main cause of climate change. The expansion of mono-cropping of agricultural commodities is destroying soil fertility, biodiversity, wildlife and water sources. We need to preserve our natural resources and create an ecological agriculture system, protecting land rights of indigenous and small farming communities.”

ALEXANDER MAIN, main at, @ceprdc
Director of international policy at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, Main has written extensively on Brazil and has been tracking movement on the issue on Capitol Hill.

On Wednesday, Rep. Hank Johnson wrote a letter signed by 12 other members of congress to Attorney General William Barr “asking the Department of Justice (DOJ) to explain the scope of its involvement in the tainted and politicized case against Brazil’s former president Lula da Silva, and Brazil’s broad ‘Lava Jato’ (Car Wash) corruption investigation.”

“There is strong evidence that Brazil’s former president Lula was the target of a highly political operation involving the current Justice Minister that was intended to keep him off the ballot in last year’s elections, which he almost certainly would have won,” Rep. Johnson said. “We need to be sure that DOJ was not party to this tainted process.”

Main and Mendonça have been on a series of releases about the increased authoritarianism in Brazil in recent years, beginning with an effective coup against Dilma Rousseff. In “Confessing to Brazilian Coup * U.S. Complicity,” in 2016, Main noted: “The Obama administration continues to celebrate and support the new, illegitimate rightwing government of Michel Temer which took power following the baseless impeachment of elected president Dilma Rousseff. On Sept. 22, Vice President Joe Biden met with Temer and ‘commended [him] for his commitment to maintaining Brazil’s regional and global leadership role during the recent period of political change in Brazil.’”

Today, Main adds that “the U.S. Department of Justice’s record of enthusiastic support for ‘Lava Jato’ prosecutors who — as an ongoing Intercept investigation has revealed — colluded with a corrupt judge (and current justice minister) to put Lula in jail and keep him off the ballot, raises serious questions regarding the extent to which the U.S. government has been involved in anti-democratic political interference in Brazil under the guise of judicial cooperation.”