Why Brazilian farmers are burning the rainforest — and why it’s difficult for Bolsonaro to stop them

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, under international pressure to curb the fires now spiking across the Amazon, is trying to crack down on the farmers and loggers who clear land by burning the rainforest.

But he’s up against long-standing traditions, practices, laws — and some of his own rhetoric.

Farmers in Brazil use fire to clear land. A decades-old law encourages them to invade the Amazon. And Bolsonaro, backed by Brazil’s powerful agricultural lobby, campaigned on promises to open the rainforest to more farming, logging and mining — and against what he called “an industry of fines” at Ibama, the environmental protection agency.

“I won’t allow Ibama to go around issuing fines left and right,” the climate-change skeptic said shortly after his election last year. “The party is going to end.”

And he delivered: Since he took office in January, the agency says it has issued 29.4 percent fewer fines for violations, including illegal burning and deforestation.

But now Bolsonaro is trying to apply the brakes. He has declared a 60-day ban on the fires. He has sent troops to northern Brazil to crack down on deforestation. And authorities are investigating reports of coordinated arsons last month in what farmers and loggers on social media called a “Day of Fire.”

But there, again, is the conundrum for Bolsonaro: Rural leaders in the Amazon of Pará state allegedly organized the fires along a highway across the rainforest to show support for Bolsonaro’s loosening of environmental restrictions, the newspaper Globo Rural reported.

Article URL : https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/why-brazilian-farmers-are-burning-the-rainforest--and-why-its-difficult-for-bolsonaro-to-stop-them/2019/09/05/3be5fb92-ca72-11e9-9615-8f1a32962e04_story.html

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