With whole nations under lockdown, sweeping powers are being assumed by governments across the world in the name of containing the COVID-19 pandemic. Hungary's parliament on March 30 voted to allow Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to rule by decree, without a set time limit. While the emergency legislation remains in place, all elections are suspended, as are several government regulations including (ironically) some concerned with protecting public health. Individuals who spread what is deemed false or distorted information may face up to five years in prison. Other measures include up to three years in prison for anyone who disregards quarantine orders. (Jurist, Politico)
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Brazilian President Jair Messias Bolsonaro met in New Delhi Jan. 26, pledging a "new chapter" in cooperation between their two countries, especially naming counter-terrorism and exploitation of minerals, hydrocarbons and other natural resources. (India Today, PTI) The juxtaposition of security concerns and extractivism is telling, as both leaders prepare to repress opposition to their plans to open the traditional territories of indigenous peoples to industrial interests.
Groups including Brazil's Human Rights Advocacy Collective (CADHu) and the Dom Paulo Evaristo Arns Commission for Human Rights (Comissão Arns) on Nov. 25 submitted a written recommendation to Fatou Bensouda, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), reporting the need for a preliminary examination into genocide and systematic attacks against indigenous people by the government of President Jair Messias Bolsonaro. This informative note walks through the dismantling of environmental protections in the Amazon rainforest, detailing how "[u]nder the pretext of developing the Amazon Region, the Bolsonaro Administration is turning government policy into encouragement for attacks on Brazil's indigenous peoples and their lands." The report further details the upsurge of deforestation and increased forest fires. Bolsonaro has dismissed urgent warnings from the scientific community, and encouraged "crimes against humanity and the genocide of Brazil's indigenous peoples and traditional communities."
Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, one of the two remaining "dubia cardinals" who dissented from a perceived liberal tilt in the Catholic Church, praised the men who removed the controversial "Pachamama statues" from a church in Rome during last month's Amazon Synod and threw them into the Tiber River. The German cardinal hailed the perpetrators as "courageous...prophets of today" in an Oct. 29 interview with the conservative Catholic LifeSiteNews, adding: "These two young men who threw these tasteless idols into the Tiber have not committed theft, but have done a deed, a symbolic act as we know it from the Prophets of the Old Covenant, from Jesus—see the cleansing of the Temple—and from Saint Boniface who felled the Thor Oak near Geismar."
A young indigenous Guajajara leader was murdered Nov. 1 in the Brazilian Amazon, raising concerns about escalating violence against forest protectors under the government of President Jair Bolsonaro. Paulo Paulino Guajajara, 26, was shot in the head and killed in an ambush in the Araribóia Indigenous Reserve, in the northeast state of Maranhão. Paulo was a member of "Guardians of the Forest," a group of 120 indigenous Guajajara that organize volunteer patrols to fight illegal logging in the Araribóia reserve, one of the country's most threatened indigenous territories. The Guardians also act to protect the Awá Guajá people, an "uncontacted group" of hunter-gatherers described by Survival International as the most threatened indigenous group on the planet. (Mongabay, Nov. 2)
Hundreds of thousands of protesters marched in Bolivia's eastern lowland city of Santa Cruz Oct. 4, calling for President Evo Morales to be "punished" at the polls in the upcoming elections later this month. Although the march was called by the city's Comité Cívico, a voice of the right-wing opposition, a key issue was the devastation of the country's eastern forests in the wildfires that have swept across the Amazon Basin over the past months. Comité Cívico leaders accused Morales of failing to respond adequately to the fires. Last month, the Comité held a mass assembly in Santa Cruz, where they declared a state of "national disaster" over the fires. (Reuters, Oct. 5; InfoBae, Oct. 4; InfoBae, Sept. 11)
The US and Brazil on Sept. 13 announced an agreement to promote private-sector development in the Amazon rainforest. US officials said a $100 million fund will be established to "protect biodiversity" by supporting businesses in hard-to-reach areas of the forest. At the meeting in Washington where the pact was struck, Brazil's foreign minister Ernesto Araujo said: "We want to be together in the endeavour to create development for the Amazon region which we are convinced is the only way to protect the forest. So we need new initiatives, new productive initiatives, that create jobs, that create revenue for people in the Amazon and that's where our partnership with the United States will be very important for us." (BBC News, Sept. 14; AFP, Sept. 13)