Destruction of the Chico Mendes Reserve threatens legacy of

Preferential target of the government of Jair Bolsonaro (no party), the legacy of environmental preservation left by Chico Mendes has turned to ashes and is the target of many pressures.

Proof of this is the destruction of a sanctuary that bears the very name of the leader of the rubber tappers. In July, the Chico Mendes Extractive Reserve, in Acre, was the second most deforested among the Conservation Units of Amazonia Legal.

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The data released on Thursday (19) by the Imazon Institute show that 30 km² of native forest were cut down: an area equivalent to approximately 4,200 soccer fields.

In 2020, the area cleared of the forest increased 48% compared to 2019, reaching 101.3 km². The total area of ​​the reserve is just over 9,000 km².

The creation of Resex, in 1990, symbolized the struggle of forest peoples for the right to preserve their ways of life, in a sustainable way, amidst the expansion of agribusiness.

At the site, which includes seven municipalities in Acre, around 3,000 families make their living from latex extraction and chestnut collection.

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“The set of threats today is much greater, it has multiplied. Why not have we continued with loggers, and cattle ranchers, with land grabbers, in this incessant search to explore the Amazon, but today we are faced with the bills of the legislature, which precisely affect these territories”, analyzes Ângela Mendes, daughter of the rubber tapper and coordinator of the Chico Mendes Committee.

At the National Congress, Bill 6024 of 2019 proposes to reduce the limits of Resex Chico Mendes by 222 km².

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When presenting the PL in November 2019, deputy Mara Rocha, from the PSDB, justified that farmers already had cattle in the area before the creation of the reserve. And that, unfairly, had been the target of inspections.

Mendes disputes the version and explains that the processing of the bill alone has already caused damage to the communities. She says that the families would be selling their land because they believe that Resex will be extinguished with the proposal.

“They invented a lot of talk, a lot of rumors and people started to slice up part of their areas to sell. So we are in a situation where we really need to think of collective solutions to face all this,” he explains.

PL 6024, with interests in mining, also proposes the transformation of the Serra do Divisor National Park into an Environmental Protection Area. Changing the classification would reduce the rigor in preserving the site, where the greatest biodiversity of the Brazilian Amazon is located.

The justification for the extinction is in the text of deputy tucana. She points out that the Park is the only place in Acre that “has rocks that can be extracted and used in civil construction”.

Across the Amazon region, forest destruction grew 51% in the last 11 months, according to data from the Imazon Institute.

“This set of projects also dialogues with the land regularization project, recently approved here to title invaded and illegal public lands. With another project, which has just been approved in the Senate, and which is probably urgently coming to be voted in the Chamber, which is the sale of land to foreigners. This is a bomb,” says federal deputy Nilto Tatto (PT-SP).

Backstage at the Chamber, the congressman assesses that the scenario is unfavorable, especially after Bolsonaro consolidated his relationship with Arthur Lira and the Centrão parties.

According to him, the interests of Bancada Ruralista have already garnered more than 300 active votes within the Plenary.

In the case of PL 6024, which progressed at the end of March, pressure is great within the Commission for National Integration, Regional Development and the Amazon. Of the eleven parliamentarians elected by the state of Acre, only two spoke out against the proposal.

The hopes for the preservation of Resex, in Tatto’s view, turn to the opinion of the rapporteur José Ricardo Wendling (PT-RS) – if the text is not overturned.

“The agents that are invading, deforesting Chico Mendes, are part of this same articulation that has been causing mass invasions, especially in the Bolsonaro Government, after it destroyed the entire inspection and monitoring system”, assesses the PT, who is head of the Commission Environment and Sustainable Development at the Chamber.

The country’s first extractive reserves were created in March 1990, by then-president José Sarney. Resex Chico Mendes, symbol of the environmental struggle in Brazil, was the second to be made official.

Author of the famous phrase “Ecology without class struggle is gardening”, the rubber tapper leader born in Xapuri (AC), had his life interrupted at the behest of land grabbers in 1998.

“My father’s legacy is the territories for collective use, more specifically the extractive reserves, which are today, after indigenous lands, the territories most threatened by this set of legislative and executive instruments, which negatively impact the set of these conservation units”, concludes Mendes.

Edition: Vivian Virissimo

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