It was an epic case of projection. Lashing out at the attacks on his Amazon-incinerating policies, Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro accused French President Emmanuel Macron of having a “colonial mindset.”
The not even vaguely funny joke is that it is Bolsonaro who has unleashed a wave of unmasked colonial violence inside his country. This is a politician who came to power railing against indigenous people, casting their land rights as an unacceptable barrier to development in the Amazon, where cultures intrinsically linked to the rainforest have consistently resisted mega projects and the expanding frontier of agribusiness. “If I become president there will not be a centimeter more of indigenous land,” he said, while ominously declaring that “we’re going to give a rifle and a carry permit to every farmer.”
Much as Trump’s relentless anti-immigrant rhetoric has emboldened white nationalists to commit real-world hate crimes, Christian Poirier of Amazon Watch explains that in Brazil, “Farmers and ranchers understand the president’s message as a license to commit arson with wanton impunity, in order to aggressively expand their operations into the rainforest.” According to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research, deforestation in the Amazon this July went up by a staggering 278 percent compared to the same month last year (the institute’s director was promptly fired after sharing these and other inconvenient findings).