Amazon Gold and Army Suspicion Fuel Bolsonaro’s Rainforest Rage – by Simone Preissler Iglesias and Bruce Douglas (Bloomberg News – August 28, 2019)

Among the tens of thousands of Brazilians who descended on the Amazonian goldmine of Serra Pelada in the 1980s was Percy Geraldo Bolsonaro, father of the current president, Jair Bolsonaro.

Bolsonaro senior was among the wildcat miners who endured brutal working conditions in the quest for riches. The rainforest suffered too, with widespread environmental degradation as miners ripped apart the Amazon in their desperate hunt for gold.

It’s an aspect of Brazil’s national psyche that resonates deeply with the president. “Gold mining is a vice; it’s in the blood,” he told miners from the region in a video posted to YouTube in July 2018. “We owe all we have to people with spirits like yours.”

Brazil’s president has been the subject of international opprobrium for fanning the flames of the Amazon’s destruction, with protests against his environmental policies both at home and abroad as well as interventions from celebrities like actor Leonardo DiCaprio and model Gisele Bundchen.

But his upbringing and early career suggest that he’s not about to back down. Indeed, Bolsonaro initially rejected a pledge of 20 million euros from Group of Seven members to help fight the fires, sharpening a dispute with French President Emmanuel Macron, who said G-7 leaders must regard the Amazon’s plight as an “international crisis.”

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