The multiple fires that hit the Amazon and other biomes such as the Chaco and the Pantanal in Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay, are a symptom of the serious problems generated by the agricultural-industrial system that has been imposed in this region of South America. and which is part of the framework on which global agri-food capitalism is based.
The Brazilian Amazon has been the scene of fires of magnitude for many years. For example, during 2016, which was especially dry, there were a lot of fires in that region ... but in 2019 there have been no droughts.
Although the reasons for these fires to take place are complex and multi-causal, the expansion of agribusiness aggravated by climate change is one of the main causes. This situation has worsened with the policies established by the president of Brazil, who since his election campaign showed a lack of knowledge of the environmental and social problems of the Amazon. Jair Bolsonaro has granted marque patents to large landowners and entrepreneurs in the agricultural sector, to transform the forest into large grazing areas and commercial plantations. Under the new president of Brazil, the illegal occupation of Amazonian lands has increased and deforestation has increased by 273%, which makes it possible to speculate with them and sell them or expand the agro-industrial frontier (pastures, palm, soy mainly).
Within this model we must highlight the livestock industry that has developed in the area that now burns. The meat industry is responsible for 14% of annual global deforestation in Brazil, with similar percentages in Paraguay. The kings of meat are Brazilian, and the JBS-Friboi company is the largest producer and exporter of meat in the world, with China being its main customer. This company controls 10% of the world's beef production, as well as pork, sheep and chicken, and leather processing. It has been associated with the payment of bribes to politicians, and every day they have more power with Jair Bolsonaro.
JBS-Friboi has been accused of purchasing cattle raised on deforested Amazonian lands for grazing, by burning or other questioned methods. Bolsonaro's coming to power, and his support for agribusiness over and above environmental protection, triggered the power of JBS. This group put the Minister of Agriculture, Tereza Cristina Dias, known as the "muse of poison", for her support of pesticides, she was accused of exempting taxes and doing personal business with JBS. As its power and profits grow, the world watches in terror as the Amazon burns.
To this situation must be added the monocultures of transgenic soybeans, which obey a model designed only for large areas of land and which, for this reason, has generated land grabbing and deforestation in the countries where they have expanded. Three of these countries now face massive fires: Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay. Former Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi, known as "the king of soybeans" and the largest producer and exporter of the oilseed, said he feared a boycott of Brazilian products (but not because of the destruction of the forest).
Also in Paraguay, deforestation has come from the hand of the expansion of transgenic soybeans and livestock, to which are added processes of criminalization of the communities and organizations that defend their territories against the expansion of this model, and which are now the main victims of the fires. A few days ago, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights called Paraguay's attention to problems of violation of various rights associated with spraying with agrochemicals and the consequent poisoning of towns, including children, and the contamination of the water, soil and food associated with soy and livestock agribusiness.
Meanwhile in Bolivia, the government of Evo Morales authorized an increase in the production of transgenic soy for biodiesel. According to the Minister of Hydrocarbons, Luis Alberto Sánchez, the agricultural frontier should be increased by about 250 thousand hectares, and that the country could expand its agricultural frontier to four million hectares of soybeans. This is very significant, taking into account that, according to the Agricultural Census, the total area planted in the country is 2,760,238.6 hectares, of which 60.8% are cultivated in Santa Cruz. The expansion of 250 thousand ha will mean expanding the agricultural frontier by 10%, which will possibly occur in the Amazonian forests of Santa Cruz.
The Amazon / Chaco agribusiness is part of the global agri-food business. Much of the soy produced in this region ends up in Chinese poultry farms (which is now the world's leading producer of chickens, with a high percentage destined for export). In a context of economic war between China and the United States, relations between the Southern Cone and China are increasing.
For its part, the fattening industry and raising of pigs and poultry throughout Europe depend largely on South American soybeans. It is expected that these problems could intensify with the signing of the Mercosur / European Union Free Trade Agreement, because the flow of goods from the Southern Cone (in its broadest conception includes Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay and the southernmost states of Brazil) to Europe will accelerate.
Social networks account for this concern. The leap has been made from "praying for the Amazon" #PlayForAmazonia to "acting for the Amazon" #ActForAmazonia, and social organizations, youth and women's groups also argue that it is not fire that destroys the Amazon, but capitalism.
Last Friday, hundreds of thousands of people around the world gathered in front of the Brazilian Embassies, to complain about the indolence of the Brazilian government in the face of this environmental catastrophe that affects us all.
In the case of Ecuador, they also called attention to the Ecuadorian government for the oil advance on the Yasuní National Park, for the mining in Kimsacocha and Tundayme in the Cordillera del Cóndor, for the deforestation in the Ecuadorian Chocó-Andino, and for the many other places of sacrifice that are in the country.