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Dr George Meszaros comments on the dramatic increase in Amazon fires

Dr George Meszaros, Associate Professor in Warwick Law School, comments on the political background to the Amazon rain forest fires.

"Leaving aside the absurd suggestion that NGOs set fire to the Amazon, here are some of the elements that explain the current Brazilian situation:

"If not the backbone of Bolsonaro’s government, the farming lobby is part of it: boi, bala, and biblia’ which refers to the farming, gun and religious lobby that support him. In that sense there are elements of a parallel with the US.

"Traditionally the farming lobby illegally opened up land in Brazil and the state acquiesced. With his aggressive rhetoric Bolsonaro has pump primed that sector. He wants to roll back any state regulation in this area.

"There is a problem that for some the Amazon is seen as property. That is a very powerful political theme in Brazil - 'I do with my property as I see fit.' Often they choose to overlook its origins. Land has been laundered through fires and then markets that sell them on whilst notaries ‘legalised’ the sale.

"One difficulty is that if the facts do not suit, Bolsonaro denies them, he has suggested that the satellite data is not accurate, or in the case of NGOs, invents data and offers to provide zero evidence.

"There is a more complex dimension here. Recent EU agreement with Brazil increases the marketization pressures in the Amazon, it empowers the farming lobby at the heart of the problem.

"It should also not be forgotten the extent to which financial markets have been supportive of Bolsonaro’s so-called ‘free-market policies’. They have repeatedly given him the benefit of the doubt, as long as he shrinks the state, deregulates, and offers up opportunities for further privatisation.

"Amid historically low interest rates in places like Europe and the EU, finance capital has gone in search of more lucrative opportunities. Brazilian land has been one of those and this has stimulated the phenomenon of ‘land grabbing’. Amazonian fires are a partial reflection of that phenomenon."

23 August 2019




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