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The World Wants to Save the Amazon Rainforest. Brazil's Bolsonaro Says Hands Off.

August 23, 2019

For as long as Brazil has claimed most of the Amazon rainforest as its own, it has guarded it jealously.

The military, which regards the rainforest as perhaps its central responsibility, built one of its main bases in the jungle city of Manaus. Foreign scientists have been eyed with skepticism. Development of the Amazon has been seen as both a tool for economic advancement — and to ensure the forest stays Brazilian.

Now, amid raging fires in the Amazon and an international outcry over environmental policies critics say are exacerbating the crisis, long held fears that others are coveting what belongs to Brazil are flaring once again.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a former fringe politician who came to power by appealing to nationalistic and antiglobalist sentiment, has said the international condemnations betray a modern day "colonialist mentality." The former commander of Brazil’s army, Eduardo Villas Boas, lashed out at "direct attacks on Brazilian sovereignty." Foreign Minister Ernesto Araújo called for the "governing of Brazil by Brazilians."...

"Fear about foreign invasion of the Amazon has been a central pillar of Brazil’s identity forever," said Brian Winter, vice president for policy at Americas Society/Council of the Americas. "I don’t think international pressure, no matter how loud it gets, has any chance of changing government policy."

The fears were heightened this month when Foreign Policy magazine asked in a headline, "Who will invade Brazil to save the Amazon?" The headline was later changed, but it consumed attention here for days, and has since been used by supporters of Bolsonaro to raise suspicions of foreign intentions.

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