City hoists Bolsonaro flag amidst choking smoke from Amazon fires – Global Voices | CarTailz

Fire in the urban area of ​​Novo Progresso, state of Pará | Photo: Cicero Pedrosa Neto/Amazonia Real

This report, written by Cícero Pedrosa Neto, was released at Amazonia Real website on September 20, 2022. It is republished by Global Voices under a partnership agreement with updates and changes to the original text.

With backpacks in hands, Maria Margareth Silva, 67, a Jair Bolsonaro (PL, Liberal party) voters, waiting for their bus at the Novo Progresso bus train station. It was the morning of September 3rd, although it didn’t look like it.

Smothered in a thick haze of smoke and soot from pollution Fire In the surrounding forests, the city in the northern state of Pará sees days that seem like nights. The thick layer of particles and toxic gases makes the air unbreathable. While speaking to the reporter, Silva could barely speak and coughed repeatedly.

“I will spend a few days at some relatives’ house in Uruará (a neighboring town) to escape the smoke,” she said. Unlike other local residents, she says she cannot live with the effects of the fires.

Novo Progresso is considered one of the cities with the highest rates of wildfires, deforestation and support for President Bolsonaro financial support Devastation in the Amazon.

“It is like that at this time of year. We can’t even see the sky. The sun is just a red torch. Our breathing is strained. As long as the rains don’t come, it’s going to stay that way,” she said, referring to the start of the rainy season, usually in November.

In Novo Progresso, the only flags seen support Bolsonaro, and almost always alongside the Brazilian flag, the national symbol kidnapped by the ultra-nationalism propagated by the current President.

The city of Novo Progresso ranks tenth in Brazil for greenhouse gas emissions. According to data from the climate observatory, it emits about 580 tons of CO2 per inhabitant every year. That’s more than 80 times the world population average, which is about 7 tons per inhabitant annually.

“It’s as if every resident of Novo Progresso had more than 500 cars driving 20 kilometers a day on gasoline,” the report says.

Smoke in the Amazon

Fire erupts along the Paraná branch road, an access road to the indigenous land of the Baú, the Kayapó people, in Novo Progresso (PA) | Photo: Cicero Pedrosa Neto/Amazonia Real

According to Inpe (National institute for Space Research) 24,034 fires were registered in the state of Pará from January to September 18, which means more than 2020 (23,507 fires) and 2019 (15,776 fires).

Novo Progresso is one of the cities responsible for shipping toxins smoke from the burning fires in the Amazon to the southeast and south regions of the country. Residents say that there are two seasons in the city: the rainy season and the fire season.

The city is known for the “Day of Fire”, a movement organized on WhatsApp on August 10, 2019. The perpetrators – mainly peasants and grileiros (land trespassers) – wanted to get Bolsonaro’s attention in order to demand the end of ibama (Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources) Inspections in the city and in the protected areas that are located on their territory.

They set fire to a vast tract of forest that spread to nearby towns. In two days, Inpe recorded 1,457 fires in Pará. In 2022, a New “Day of Fire”, August 22, saw 2,238 fires, according to to the institute.

The report observed the advance of fires on the edges of the Kayapó indigenous lands, around the village of Kamau.

“Every year we gather the warriors to prevent fire from entering our territory. It’s difficult, we try to talk to the farmers, but they don’t listen. Look how it ended,” says Bepdjyre Kayapó, leader of the village of Kamau, pointing to the burnt area that encroached on indigenous territory.

Not even the mark of the National Indigenous Foundation (FUNAI), which marks the beginning of the territory, escaped the fire.

Fire burned Funai shield on the edges of the IT Baú | Photo: Cicero Pedrosa Neto/Amazonia Real

“She [Funai] do not have the means to control how far the fire will spread. This is how it invades tribal lands, forcing residents to be on alert and always wait for the worst,” said a source who asked not to be identified.

Other protected areas within 38,000 kilometers of the community have suffered from the systematic encroachment of land grabbers, loggers and miners for years.

At this time, a cloud of smoke covers the streets, houses, schools and hospitals from which there is no escape. People avoid wearing white, and the soot ends up on family homes and clothes on clotheslines.

The hot air caused by the fires affects the throat, trachea and lungs. Cough and shortness of breath are noticeable already in the first hours of staying in the city.

A climate of despair

From January to September 18, 2022, Novo Progresso recorded 3,083 fires, according to Inpe.

“It seems that everyone decided to set fires in late August, early September. I think people are scared and go into the forest with everything without thinking about tomorrow.” said Researcher Ane Alencar.

“It could be a reflection of the electoral process that we’re going through,” she said, referring to Bolsonaro’s backlog in the polls.

The President finished the first round behind Ex-President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT, Labor Party), with a difference of 6 million votes. In Pará, Lula received 52.2 percent of the vote, Bolsonaro 40.2 percent. At Novo Progresso, on the other hand, the current president was clearly ahead with 79.6 percent compared to 17.5 percent.

In the second round, when Lula was elected, Bolsonaro received 82.9 percent of the vote in that ward against 17 percent for Lula.

“The agribusiness triumphalism that Bolsonaro enthralled in 2019 has been replaced by a desperation to do everything quickly and as much as possible in the face of the prospect of his defeat in the elections.” said Alfredo Wagner Berno de Almeida, Research Coordinator group Nova Cartografia Social da Amazônia (New Social Cartography of the Amazon).

The researcher also highlighted another factor to understand why Novo Progresso favors Bolsonaro. It is in a strategic position on the map and is part of the route of a large transport project. Ferrogrão.

The 933-kilometer railway, which has yet to be developed, is being sold as a solution for the flow of agricultural products, linking the town of Sinop in Mato Grosso with the center of soybean and corn production at Itaituba in Pará further along the banks of the Tapajós River.

Pro-Bolsonaro delirium

A sign next to the BR-63 freeway calls for President Jair Bolsonaro to intervene to not allow a federal traffic police station to be built | Photo: Cicero Pedrosa Neto/Amazonia Real

In the ‘hell’ of Novo Progresso, Bolsonaro’s voice can be heard on street corners, in garages and markets, from videos sent via WhatsApp and downloaded from Wi-Fi in private facilities – phone service in the region is unreliable. The WiFi password? In several cases “Bolsonaro 2022.

Because the fires affected masts and fiber optic cables that transmit the Internet signal to the nearly 26,000 residents, while Amazonia Real reported.

The President’s image was merged with the logos of some local businesses, auto repair shops, gas stations, bars and restaurants. His face can also be seen on the 4×4s and SUVs that speed around, kicking up dust and making the air even more unbreathable.

Even with dozens of scientists, satellites, and the visible effects showing that Novo Progresso is a symbol of the Amazon’s devastation, the notion persists in the city that the data is nothing more than “stories.” That was the term used by Agamenon Meneses – president of the Union of Rural Producers of Novo Progresso and identified by the federal police as one of those responsible for organizing the “Day of Fire” in 2019 – when speaking to the reporter.

Isso aí é uma farsa muito grande, muita conversa fiada, muita invenção, muita narrativa, entendeu? […] Todo ano tem uma estatística de desmatamento e se você Considerar essa quantidade, já tinha acabado a mata amazônica; Ja Tinha Acabado Tudo.


Desmatamento há, we pequenos pedaços de área que a pessoa quer implementar pasto, dentro do limite constitucional de 20%. Aí, quando queima essa area, cria uma fumaceira danada, porque é abafado, não corre vento.

It’s a big farce, a lot of nonsense, a lot of fakery, a lot of stories, you know? […] Every year there is a deforestation statistic and if you go with that total the Amazon forest would already be gone; everything would have disappeared.


There is deforestation, some small pieces of land that someone wants to clear for grazing purposes, within the 20% constitutional limit. Then when they burn that area, there’s a crazy amount of smoke, because there’s no air, there’s no wind.

A former Novo Progresso resident told the reporter that there is a “belief in Bolsonaro” that leads local farmers led by Agamenon to believe that the president will change Brazil’s environmental laws. They also believe that fines imposed by law enforcement will be amnested by Bolsonaro.

Full support

Cattle in the middle of a burned area along the Paraná side road, access road to the Baú IT, of the Kayapó people | Photo: Cicero Pedrosa Neto/Amazonia Real

According to Novo Progresso municipal secretary for the environment, João Maria dos Santos, there have been no unusual deforestation or fires this year. He is calling for changes in the country’s environmental legislation and a reduction in the number of environmental and indigenous reservations in the region.

Amazônia Real also asked the Pará state government for comment on the Novo Progresso fires and environmental policies, as Governor Helder Barbalho is the legal Amazon governors’ representative on climate issues, but received no response. Barbalho was re-elected and supports Lula.

The report also attempted to contact Ibama but received no response at the time of publication.


Fires along the Paraná side road, access road to the indigenous territory of the Baú, the Kayapó people, in Novo Progresso (PA) (Photo: Cícero Pedrosa Neto/Amazônia Real)

Under Bolsonaro’s administration, Novo Progresso has reached historic levels of destruction. Between 2019 and 2021, the city saw about 972 square kilometers of deforestation, the equivalent of 97,200 soccer fields, according to data from Inpe.

IPAM (Amazon Research Institute) researcher Ane Alencar explained that deforestation and fires are inextricably linked. In other words, deforestation leads to the burns and consequent wildfires that become more frequent in the region between August and September each year.

“Novo Progresso is one of the centers of deforestation and burning in the region, an area where crime seems to be paying off,” comments Ane Alencar, pointing to the non-compliance of the Brazilian forest code.

However, the scenario is not limited to this community, which ranked fifth among 10 communities in the legal Amazon in the number of fires in September.

The Amazon recorded its worst average number of fires in 2022 since Inpe began monitoring Amazon fires in 2012.

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