While Boris Johnson is locked down in quarantine, a repulsive fact emerges about the PM

Boris Johnson
Tracy Keeling

A vile fact has emerged about Boris Johnson while the PM is locked down in quarantine. A freedom of information (FoI) request by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism has revealed that Jair Bolsonaro‘s hard-right regime in Brazil sent personal thanks to Johnson in 2019. What had the PM done to deserve the Brazilian government’s gratitude? He opposed taking action against Brazil over the catastrophic, almost entirely avoidable fires in the Amazon.

That’s right. The British PM received a pat on the back from a fascistic regime for rejecting efforts designed to save our planet.

Devastating fires

In 2019, fires consumed huge swathes of the Amazon in Brazil. As National Geographic reported on 29 August that year:

About 76,000 fires were burning across the Brazilian Amazon at last official count, an increase of over 80 percent over the same time period last year

The fires captured the world’s attention, as did the Australian wildfires a few months later. But there is a critical difference between the two catastrophes. The Australian fires were indirectly man-made: they were caused by what humanity, over nearly two centuries, has done to the planet. But directly, they were largely the result of extreme heat and weather. The Amazon fires, however, were mostly directly man-made, caused by people burning the land to clear it for use. Mongabay reported in October 2019:

Altogether, 7,604 square kilometers (2,970 square miles) of rainforest were felled during the first nine months of this year, an 85 percent increase over the same period last year.

Although rainforest destruction has always happened on some level, it has been turbocharged under Bolsonaro. As Brazilian politician and columnist David Miranda wrote in the Guardian in 2019, Bolsonaro and his “extremist” environment minister Ricardo Salles:

have not merely permitted these devastating fires, but have encouraged and fueled them.

They have done so with a toxic brew of radical ideology, political corruption and banal greed. Put simply, the ongoing destruction of the Amazon is taking place because of policy choices made by those who now rule Brazil.

Whitewashing wilful destruction

As such, the world – including many politicians – laid the blame for the fires largely at Bolsonaro’s feet. France’s president Emmanuel Macron threatened to block a proposed trade deal – the EU-Mercosur deal – between the EU and South American states (including Brazil) as a result. He was essentially trying to leverage the deal to force Bolsanaro to protect the Amazon.

Johnson, however, had other ideas. He called the Amazon fires a “tragedy”. He also effectively accused Macron of making up an ‘excuse’ to stifle free trade. And he said:

People will take any excuse at all to interfere with free trade and to frustrate trade deals, and I don’t want to see that.

Unless Johnson’s intellectual prowess isn’t as advanced as his pompous vocabulary would have people believe, he should know what a grotesque misrepresentation the word ‘tragedy’ is in this context. Tragedies are generally perceived to be accidental and uncultivated occurrences; whereas the destruction of the Amazon in 2019, as Miranda argued, was wilful and deliberate, puppeteered by those at the very top of government.

Johnson’s decision to dismiss France’s proposed action to stop the Brazilian government destroying the Amazon further was beyond repulsive. And as veritable proof of that odiousness, Brazil’s government thanked Johnson for his support. The UK Foreign Office revealed in the FoI to the Bureau that the ambassador:

thanked the prime minister for his stance… and said it had not gone unnoticed in Brasilia

A disgusting special relationship

This comradery between the UK government and Bolsonaro didn’t just appear out of thin air though. As Brasil Wire recently reported, a number of meetings have taken place between British and Brazilian officials. The article’s authors unearthed the previously undisclosed meetings via an FoI. These include two meetings between Bolsonaro and the UK ambassador to Brazil, Vijay Rangarajan, in 2018. Then-chief secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss made a trip to Brazil to talk “free trade, free markets and post-Brexit opportunities” a day before one of those meetings. The report’s authors have waited eight months to hear back from the Cabinet Office about what Truss got up to during her trip to Brazil. They’re still waiting.

Meanwhile, the FoI revealed further correspondence between Rangarajan, Bolsonaro and his finance minister Paulo Guedes. On all correspondence listed in the FoI, the details were “withheld”, the authors said.

The Brasil Wire report does, however, contain a number of eye-opening details. Specifically, it details what UK interests are winning big from the Bolsonaro regime:

By 2018, Shell and BP — with whom the UK ambassador to Brazil has met over twenty times since 2017 — had already accumulated 13.5 billion barrels of Brazil’s oil, more than the country’s own company Petrobras, and for only a fraction of the cost.

It also notes that Mongabay recently reported that:

British mining giant Anglo American has made over 300 requests for permission to explore 18 indigenous territories in the Amazon, some of which are home to uncontacted peoples.

Bolsonaro is currently trying to push a law through that would legalise commercial exploitation in indigenous territories.

Winners and losers

Clearly, there are big winners and big losers when it comes to the cosy relationship between the UK and Brazil. Dirty energy and extractive industries are laughing all the way to the bank. But it’s an existential threat to the natural world, such as the rainforests – which serve as the world’s air conditioner and house countless species of flora and fauna. Indigenous peoples will also lose out big from it, with their very lives on the line under Bolsonaro’s hateful regime.

Ultimately, though, we’ll all lose out – as our world becomes increasingly uninhabitable thanks to the reckless actions of those who have their hands on the levers of power.

Featured image via Guardian News/YouTube

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