During the current pandemic, forest loss in 2020 has dwarfed the devastation of the previous year. The scale of environmental crimes and aggression towards indigenous peoples and people of African-descendent has been a characteristic of the Bolsonaro administration in the Amazon region. As cases of COVID-19 rise daily in remote areas of the Amazon, a recent study indicates that indigenous lands that aren’t formally demarcated are more vulnerable to intrusion and hence disease: indeed illegal loggers have emerged as a key vector of Covid-19 transmission in a region with Brazil’s lowest number of intensive care units. The weakening of environmental protection in the Amazon has been systematic and a feature of the Brazilian shift from neo-liberalism to neo-developmentalism which can be characterised politically as neo-liberal authoritarianism. If Covid-19 also is now becoming a metaphor for the poisonous spread of neo-liberal globalisation, plunder and land grabs in the Brazilian rainforest can be seen to represent the most egregious of many egregious cases on the ground zero of neo-liberalism unchained. With the rise of Bolsonaro, we can see that the previous conjuncture characterised by the hegemony of PT and Lula was the exception to Brazil’s long embrace of the caudillo going back to the 1930s. Even then, a look at the mechanism of Lula’s rule raises questions as to precisely what changed under Lula when it came to the state and the rule of big capital.


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Cite as

Stewart, P., Garvey, B., Torres, M. & de Farias, T. 2021, 'Amazonian destruction, Bolsonaro and COVID-19: neo-liberalism unchained', Capital & Class, 45(2), pp. 173-181. https://doi.org/10.1177/0309816820971131

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Last updated: 03 September 2022
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