Indigenous leaders denounce Amazon fires as 'a terrifying plague'

Indigenous leader Sonia Guajajara has said that President Jair Bolsonaro normalizes and incites violence against indigenous people and the environment. © Survival International. |  

By Dan Bacher |  

Indigenous leaders across Brazil’s Amazon region have denounced the devastating fires raging through the region as a “plague” and a ‘terror” that “makes our children sick and kills the animals,” according to a press release from Survival International.
    Antonio Enésio Tenharim of the Tenharim people said: “We take care of this land, our territory. Until today, the fire hadn’t entered. But now it has suddenly come, in various places. It is a terror for our people, because it makes our children sick, kills the animals, it only brings bad things."
    Renowned indigenous leader Sonia Guajajara said today: “We’re putting our bodies and our lives on the line to try to save our territories… We’ve been warning for decades about the violations we have suffered across Brazil.”
    “The predatory behaviour of loggers, miners and ranchers, who have a powerful lobby in the National Congress with more than 200 deputies under their influence … has been getting much worse under the anti-indigenous government of Jair Bolsonaro, who normalizes, incites and empowers violence against the environment and against us."
    A group of Huni Kuin leaders said: “Nature is crying and we are crying. If we don’t stop this destruction of Mother Nature, future generations will live in a completely different world to the one we live in today. This is Mother Nature’s cry, asking us to help her. And we are working today so that humanity has a future. But if we don’t stop this destruction, we will be the ones that will be extinguished, burned and the sky will descend upon us, which has already begun to happen."
    Indigenous leader Raimundo Mura speaking to Reuters last week said: “I will resist until my last drop of blood… It’s a plague. You see the lives (of the trees) wasted there. All these trees were once alive, they all needed to live, each one in its place. You can see the damage. It’s the white man’s goal to destroy this [forest]."
    The Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon (COIAB) has also released a statement on the fires
    Survival International’s Director Stephen Corry said today: “These appalling fires are not accidental. The attack on Amazonia is facilitated because of Bolsonaro’s assault on indigenous people and the environment, to a degree we’ve not seen for 50 years. The Amazon is being destroyed and its indigenous peoples are being destroyed at the fastest rate in generations. The best way to address the climate crisis is to fight for the land rights of indigenous peoples.”Indigenous leaders denounce Amazon fires as “a terrifying plague."
    Last week, Tom B.K. Goldtooth, Executive Director of Indigenous Environmental Network; and Lindsey Allen, Executive Director of Rainforest Action Network, issued a statement on the Amazon Rainforest fires and Brazilian President Jair Bolonsaro’s war on Indignenous peoples and the environment:
    “It’s a shame that the Brazilian cavalry hasn’t been as efficient as the Americans, who exterminated the Indians.”
    “The Indians do not speak our language, they do not have money, they do not haveculture. They are native peoples. How did they manage to get 13% of the national territory.”
    “There is no indigenous territory where there aren’t minerals. Gold, tin and magnesium are in these lands, especially in the Amazon, the richest area in the world. I’m not getting into this nonsense of defending land for Indians.”
    These are just a few of the shameful and hateful words of Brazil’s current president, Jair Bolonsaro. As he was running for president, Bolsonaro also promised to open up the Amazon for mining and agriculture, as he also promised to “crackdown” on environmental activists. The biggest newspaper in Brazil, O Globo, called this a “war on NGOs.”
    The catastrophic fires raging in Brazil right now are not only a global emergency, they are a testament to Bolonsaro’s racism, ignorance and greed. His words and deeds have paved the way for these man-made fires. We know that protecting tropical rainforests, stopping fossil fuel emissions and upholding the rights of Indigenous Peoples are some of the most important ways to address the global impacts of the growing climate crisis. That’s true in the Amazon. That’s true in the Indonesia rainforests. That’s true at Standing Rock.I
    The fires were reportedly started by farmers who explicitly stated that they were encouraged by Bolsonaro's rhetoric to open more rainforest for agriculture. One of the organizers of a coordinated "Fire Day" protest that called for coordinated fires to be set across the Amazon said, "We need to show the president that we want to work and the only way is deforesting. It's to create pastures by [clearing forest], and with fire." 
    Christian Poirier, Amazon Watch's Program Director, last week also made the following statement about the fires raging across the Brazilian Amazon:
    "The unprecedented fires ravaging the Amazon are an international tragedy and a dangerous contribution to climate chaos. This devastation is directly related to President Bolsonaro's anti-environmental rhetoric, which erroneously frames forest protections and human rights as impediments to Brazil's economic growth. Farmers and ranchers understand the president's message as a license to commit arson with wanton impunity, in order to aggressively expand their operations into the rainforest."
    There have been 72,843 fires in Brazil this year, with more than half in the Amazon region, according to the National Institute for Space Research, which monitors fires using satellite images. That's an 84% increase compared with the same period last year.
    The Amazon is often referred to as the planet's lungs, producing 20% of the oxygen in the Earth's atmosphere.
    Amazon Watch research:

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