Altamira, the Amazonian city that is the epicenter of deforestation, saw the past materialize into the present on Wednesday. General José Hamilton Mourão, vice president of Brazil, flew over the region and gave a press conference at the Jungle Infantry Battalion. The objective was to create images for the world to see that the Government takes measures to combat the destruction of the Amazon, which has been shot with Jair Bolsonaro. But for the well-versed, the image evokes the authoritarian nightmare of the civic-military dictatorship (1964-85), which inaugurated the destruction of the jungle on a large scale. It also acts as a bridge with the current moment, in which Bolsonaro summons his followers to carry out a self-coup on September 7.
Mourão chairs the National Council of the Legal Amazon. Command of jungle operations passed from civilians to the military, an undemocratic policy that has proven ineffective. They apply the logic of war, which destroyed the jungle during the dictatorship of the past. But war against whom? The destroyers of the Amazon –squatters (thieves of public lands), loggers and illegal miners – are the support base of the Bolsonaro government and act with his blessing.
There is no longer security for those who protect the Amazon. The predators set fire to the houses of the leaders, as the first sign that the next act will be their extermination. Illegal miners, commanded by organized crime, invade indigenous lands such as that of the Yanomami. The corrupt Arthur Lira, president of the Chamber of Deputies, prevents an impeachment process from being opened against the president and commands the approval of bills that decree the end of the jungle.
The scene of a vice president general commanding operations in the Amazon would have been unthinkable a few years ago. That is why the rotten side of the Armed Forces is so grateful to Bolsonaro. Mourão offered the press conference at the Presidente Medici Highway. It is not a coincidence. Medici was the general who presided over the country when the kidnapping, torture and execution of opponents were State policies. It was also the period when thousands of indigenous people were executed to “liberate” the jungle for predatory exploitation. Medici inaugurated the Trans-Amazon highway also there, in Altamira, completing the symbols. Making images that were unacceptable until recently common is strategic so that the life of exception infiltrates as normal in the minds of a frightened people, assaulted by inflation and unemployment and threatened by hunger as it had not happened decades ago.
Bolsonaro and Mourão apparently do not understand each other, but the truth is that one serves the other to maintain the same authoritarian government. While Mourão marched through Altamira surrounded by the military, in Manaus, a city that generated scenes of horror during the pandemic, Bolsonaro inaugurated a residential complex. Without a mask, occasionally kissing a child next to him, the anti-president released his bravado: “On September 7 I will be where the people are.”
Translation of Meritxell Almarza.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.