Mongabay Features

A healthy and productive Amazon is the foundation of Brazil’s sovereignty

Aerial view of a large burned area in the city of Candeiras do Jamari in the state of Rondônia on August 23, 2019. (Photo: Victor Moriyama / Greenpeace)

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro likes to assert that foreigners deserve no say over the fate of the Amazon because it is a national sovereignty issue. His logic: Brazilian Amazon is Brazil’s sovereign territory and therefore it has the right to do what it wants with it, whether that be clearing it for cattle pasture and soy fields or making the decision to conserve it.

In making the argument, Bolsonaro at times lays out a grand conspiracy under which a body like the U.N. tries to “internationalize” the Amazon, claiming it as the domain of the world. This conspiracy theory is not new — it was a common refrain under Brazil’s military dictatorship from 1964-1985 and is still frequently used by opponents of Amazon conservation efforts.

With worldwide attention now on the fires burning in the Brazilian Amazon, Bolsonaro is again using this rhetoric. For example, today he cited Brazil’s sovereignty (as well as perceived “insults” from French President Emmanuel Macron after Bolsonaro slighted Macron’s wife) as the reason for rejecting a $20 million G7 contribution toward firefighting efforts.


By Rhett Ayers Butler

Rhett Ayers Butler is the Founder and CEO of Mongabay, a non-profit conservation and environmental science news platform. He started Mongabay in 1999 with the mission of raising interest in and appreciation of wild lands and wildlife.