Bolsonaro highlights richness of Amazon forest in UN address

The president reiterated his commitment with sustainable development

Published in 24/09/2019 - 16:29 By Andreia Verdélio - Brasília

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said in New York today (Sep 24) that he cannot accept the return of colonialism and advocated Brazil’s sovereignty over the Amazon. During the opening address of the 74th UN General Assembly, Bolsonaro reiterated the country’s commitment to preserving the environment and sustainable development.

“Brazil is among the richest countries in biodiversity and mineral riches. Our Amazon is larger than all of Western Europe and remains virtually untouched, which is proof we are among the countries that most protect the environment,” he told an audience of heads of state.

Approximately 14 percent of the Brazilian territory is demarcated as indigenous, and Bolsonaro pointed out he is not planning on demarcating new lands. “I want to make this clear: Brazil will not increasing its already demarcated indigenous territory to 20 percent, as some heads of state would like to see,” he stated.

Brazil's president Jair Bolsonaro arrives ahead of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., September 24, 2019. REUTERS/Yana Paskova
Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro arrives ahead of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the UN headquarters in New York on September 24. – Reuters / Yana Paskova


“Indians do not want to be poor landowners in rich lands. Especially in the world’s richest lands. That’s the case with Ianomâmi and Raposa Serra do Sol reserves. There, there is great abundance of gold, diamond, uranium, niobium, and rare lands, among other things,” Bolsonaro noted, adding that Brazil uses not more than eight percent of its territory for food production.

Zero tolerance

The Brazilian president went on to argue for a zero-tolerance policy towards crime, including crime against the environment, and said the fires blazing in the Amazon in the last few months are typical of this windy and dry time of year, and also mentioned criminal fires. Bolsonaro criticized the international press over the negative repercussions about the issue and possible economic sanctions against Brazil from other countries.

“It is fallacious to refer to the Amazon as heritage of humanity, and inaccurate, as scientists have attested, to say that our forests are the lungs of the world. Availing themselves of these fallacies, some countries, instead of offering assistance, have believed in the lies of the media, assuming a disrespectful stance, with a colonial spirit. They have questioned what we hold most sacred: our sovereignty!” he stated.

Indigenous farmers

Next, Bolsonaro read a letter he said addressed the heads of state and was submitted by a group of Brazilian indigenous producers comprised of 52 ethnic groups inhabiting an area of more than 30 million hectares in the country. In the letter, they side with indigenous leader Ysani Kalapalo, from a village in the Xingu Indigenous Park, Mato Grosso state, as their representative in the Brazilian delegation at the UN General Assembly.

“Brazil is hjome to 225 indigenous peoples, not to mention around 70 tribes living in isolated locations. Each people or tribe has its chief, its culture, its traditions, its customs, and their own way of seeing the world. The viewpoint of an indigenous leader does not represent all of the Brazilian Indians,” Bolsonaro argued, further saying that some leaders, like [world famous] Chief Raoni are often “used as a pawn by foreign governments in their information war to advance their interest in the Amazon.”

“This shows that our attackers are not worried about the Indians, but rather about the mineral riches and the biodiversity to be found in this area. Mr Raoni’s monopoly has been brought to an end. The United Nations played a key role in overcoming colonialism and cannot accept that this mindset gains access to these rooms and halls under any pretext.”

Bolsonaro further stated that any initiative to help preserve the Amazon Rainforest and other biomes must have be dealt with in full respect of Brazil’s sovereignty, and added that the country seeks partnerships to add value to Brazilian riches in a sustainable way.

The Brazilian leader also rejected the attempt to use the environmental issue or indigenous policies on behalf of external political and economic interests, “especially those taking the guise of good intentions.”

Translation: Fabrício Ferreira -  Edition: Narjara Carvalho / Augusto Queiroz

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