Seven stories that will help you understand the destruction of the Amazon

CHN’s correspondent has been documenting the forces tearing the Amazon apart since long before the world heard of Jair Bolsonaro. Here are several must read stories

Federal environment agents destroy vehicles loaded with logs inside the Aripuanã Park Indigenous Territory, where logging is a crime (Photo: Fabiano Maisonnave)


The world’s attention has been drawn to Brazil’s Amazon by the news of a surge in fire activity under the watch of the Bolsonaro government.

Climate Home News’ correspondent Fabiano Maisonnave has been documenting the destruction of the forest since long before Jair Bolsonaro’s name became internationally synonymous with ecocide.

His reporting has focused on several important themes that predate Bolsonaro but have been exacerbated by his administration.

  • The critical role of indigenous tribes, whose land rights are protected by Brazil’s constitution, in protecting the forests from extractive industries
  • The campaign of the congressional “beef caucus” to erode indigenous land tenure
  • The relationship between Bolsonaro and his predecessor Michel Temer with this agriculture lobby
  • The forces unleashed by Bolsonaro’s government that have eroded enforcement and encouraged criminals to strip the Amazon with impunity

Here are several of Fabiano’s dispatches that will help readers better understand the history of today’s crisis.

When peasant leader Carlos Cabra was killed in a drive by shooting, it seemed like another death in the conflict between landless rural workers and land-grabbing farmers that has been bloodying the Amazon for generations. But the truth was much, much stranger and revealed how Bolsonaro’s undermining of indigenous land claims have opened the gates for chaos.

Brazilian environment minister Ricardo Salles visits Utiariti indigenous land, in Mato Grosso state, where illegal soybean farming has become the centre of a national debate (Photo: Ricardo Salles/Twitter)

Traditional landowners will benefit from opening their lands to non-indigenous commercial industry. That’s the rationale of Brazil’s government as it seeks to change long-standing laws that outlaw such activity. While most indigenous people see Bolsonaro as an existential threat, the message has not completely fallen on deaf ears. That division is an opportunity his ministers are keen to exploit.

Fabiano speaks with CHN editor Karl Mathiesen about being the only reporter from a Brazilian national newspaper to be based in the entire Amazon basin.

Even before the obscure congressman was elected president, the expectation of a Bolsonaro victory drove land grabbing and deforestation in the Amazon.

In this widely-shared piece from October 2018, Fabiano previewed the promises of destruction Bolsonaro made during his election campaign. Many of these have now come to pass.

A Munduruku warrior stands above an illegal mine on indigenous land in the state of Pará (Photo: Fabiano Maisonnave)

The story of land conflict in the Amazon didn’t start with Jair Bolsonaro. Fabiano spent days journeying upriver to document a raid by the Munduruku people on their own village, which was taken over by illegal miners.

Climate change is drying out the Amazon, making fires more dangerous and feeding further warming, according to a leading Amazon scientist.

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