Brazil’s Bolsonaro: A secret and hostile administration

Lily Baker, Contributing Writer

The science community– particularly the environmental and medical research teams––in Brazil has been facing myriad complications from President Jair Bolsonaro and his administration. Bolsonaro and his relationship with the environmental scientific community has been notoriously unsteady. Recently, the scientists at Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio) announced a new rule allowing officials from ICMBio to review all current data and work before it can be submitted for publication. This transfers an immense amount of power to one person, which could cause an eruption of issues to the public.

People have expressed their worries for this new private system, which includes a fear that this system will censor and minimize data detailing environmental concerns. These fears come with valid reasons, as Bolsonaro has a history of downplaying environmental issues and taking few concrete actions to combat the global crisis of climate change. Ever since he stepped into office, he has worked hard to lessen the enforcement of Brazil’s previous environmental protection. According to the New York Times, Bolsonaro has supported companies that want more access to the Amazon, has limited the land rights of Indigenous people, and decreased governmental resistance to illegal logging and mining. Further, he has criticized programs that enforce environmental laws, viewing them as unnecessary. Instead of placing value on environmental protection, he instead values the economy, and is willing to risk the environment’s health to allow the economy to thrive. The New York Times also reported that, when asked about the consequences of a wildlife reserve in Brazil losing its designation, Bolsonaro responded that these issues only apply to “vegans, who only eat vegetables.” He claims that Brazil’s large reservations and national parks negatively affect the economy, and without them the economy would prosper. Not only has Bolsonaro demonstrated a lack of care to the land, but also to its people. Many indigenous people in Brazil feel as though the only way to preserve their culture is to live in reservations due to Bolsonaro’s efforts to diminish their history. All of these aspects cast Bolsonaro as greedy and unsympathetic to the environment and its people, thus this new system of reviewing data has raised myriad concerns for Brazilians.

The Bolsonaro administration has responded to these concerns by reassuring the community that this new system is not to censor environmental harm; however, Bolsonaro has continuously clashed with scientists. More recently, he conflicted with COVID-19 researchers about how to protect its people, and 358,000 Brazilians have died, in part, due to his disbelief in science and the seriousness of the disease. Moreover, Marcus Lacerda, an infectious disease specialist who specializes in the Amazon, faced harsh questioning from federal prosecutors, even death threats, after publishing prominent findings about the dangers of prescribing chloroquine to COVID-19 patients. Events like these lead scientists to an atmosphere of fear of publishing crucial data to the public.

This new rule of one person reviewing all documents before they get published to the public is a violation to the people of Brazil. They are being denied valuable information. The administration claims that the official is trained for this responsibility, however, it does not balance out the fact that millions of people are being withheld information, not to mention the damage this will cause to the environment. The Bolsonaro administration, the people and the scientific community have seen an increasing distance between them for years, and events like this do not make things any better. This furthers the already hostile and exclusive environment Brazilians endure. Ultimately, finding the end of the environmental and pandemic disasters in Brazil should be the top priority of the Bolsonaro administration.

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