Wildfires in the Amazon Inspire Protest Outside Brazilian Consulate in Miami

The number of fires in Brazil this year, about 74,000, is 80 percent higher than in 2018.
The number of fires in Brazil this year, about 74,000, is 80 percent higher than in 2018. Photo by celeumo / Flickr
The Amazon rainforest has been ablaze for weeks, cloaking Brazilian cities in smog and drawing international concern. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who campaigned on reopening the Amazon to business, says his government can't stop the wildfires. For environmental protesters in Miami and other major cities around the world, that's not good enough.

"Act for the Amazon" demonstrations will be held today outside the Brazilian consulate in Miami. The protests — organized by local chapters of the environmental groups Extinction Rebellion Miami, 350, and Fridays for Future — are meant to put pressure on Bolsonaro, U.S. officials, and leaders in other countries to act to extinguish the fires.

"This is an international call to action," says Nicholas Vazquez, a local coordinator for Extinction Rebellion Miami. "It's the fire, but it's also more. Brazil needs to end its deforestation project to prevent future desolation. Prayers are not enough."

The protests in Miami will begin at 11 a.m. outside the Brazilian consulate at 3150 SW 38th Ave.

Across the Atlantic Ocean, protesters gathered this morning outside the Brazilian embassy in London. Vazquez says Extinction Rebellion, which has local chapters in more than 30 U.S. cities, has helped plan sister protests outside the Brazilian consulates in Los Angeles and New York. Extinction Rebellion chapters in South American cities including Bogotá and Buenos Aires have also planned demonstrations for today.
The Amazon is the world's largest rainforest and accounts for half of the planet's remaining rainforests. The Amazon spans 2.6 million square miles and nine countries, though more than half of the rainforest can be found in Brazil. It's estimated that one in ten of the world's known species of plants and animals live in the Amazon.

"We need the government in Brazil to pull out all the stops to protect their rainforest. Brazil's current president is no friend to the Amazon or the indigenous people living in it," says 350 South Florida chairman Jack Lieberman, who adds his group has reached out to more than 2,500 people by email, Facebook, and phone. "Trump is a big friend of Bolsonaro's. They're both climate deniers in the pockets of big business."

Among the many controversial planks of Bolsonaro's political platform, his promise to unleash the Amazon's economic potential has drawn international blowback because it threatens to unravel decades of progress on limiting deforestation in Brazil. Since Bolsonaro took office in January, the amount of deforestation in Brazil spiked from where it was this time last year. The number of fires in the country this year, about 74,000, is 80 percent higher than in 2018, according to Brazil's National Space Research Institute (INPE). At least half of the recent fires have been in the Amazon.

Environmental organizations and experts believe the current fires were likely started by loggers and cattle ranchers eager to use new land for agricultural development in response to Bolsonaro's pro-business rhetoric. Bolsonaro, for his part, has done everything possible to dodge any blame for the blazes, stating without evidence that nongovernmental organizations are setting the fires to make him look bad. Last month, Bolsonaro accused INPE of fabricating data to undermine his government. This week, he said Brazil lacks the resources to fight the spreading wildfires.
"What's happening in the Amazon is a major crime against humanity and life on Earth," 350 South Florida's Lieberman says. "Who knows how many species and plants and animals are being destroyed? The future of our kids is going to be dramatically affected if this doesn't stop."
KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Manuel Madrid is a former staff writer for Miami New Times. The child of Venezuelan immigrants, he grew up in Pompano Beach. He studied finance at Virginia Commonwealth University and worked as a writing fellow for the magazine The American Prospect in Washington, D.C.