(EDITOR’S NOTE, 4/13/19, 10:14 PM ET: The headline of this article has been changed from “Natural History Museum to Honor Brazilian Leader Who Wants to Mine Amazon Rainforest” to “Natural History Museum Hosting Event Honoring Brazilian Leader Who Wants to Mine Amazon Rainforest,” to reflect the fact that the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce is actually giving the award, not the museum.) 

The American Natural History Museum is hosting a group giving its “Person of the Year” award to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who wants to illegally mine in the Amazon rainforest.

Bolsonaro will be honored by the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce, which is meant to highlight the people behind strengthening the economic relationship between the U.S. and Brazil, according to Gothamist. Each year, one American and one Brazilian receive the award. And on the May 14 gala, the American Natural History Museum will host the group as it gives the Brazilian award to President Bolsonaro.

Brazil’s far-right, hyper-nationalist (and arguably fascist) leader most recently made headlines for his plan to illegally mine on Indigenous lands in the Amazon rainforest, despite language in Brazil’s constitution giving Indigenous people the right to veto any government proposal to develop their land without their consent. As Public Radio International reported this week, Bolsonaro will presumably institute his mining program by way of presidential decree in order to get around the constitution.

Just one day after he was inaugurated, President Bolsonaro hinted at his plans for the world-famous rainforest by issuing an executive order transferring regulations and creation of new Indigenous natural resources to Brazil’s agricultural ministry. While this seems innocuous on its surface, Brazil’s ministry of agriculture is essentially controlled by major agribusiness interests that have long since had their sights set on the resources contained in the Amazon rainforest.

Mongabay journalist Sue Branford wrote that Bolsonaro wants to harvest the mineral wealth contained in the rainforest regardless of constitutional barriers, and predicts that the Brazilian Congress — which Bolsonaro’s party controls and which is heavily influenced by the agribusiness lobby — won’t do much to stand in his way.

The Amazon contains vast mineral wealth, Branford says. It has large gold reserves — probably the largest in the world — as well as silver and bauxite. Bolsonaro believes Brazil should exploit this wealth, rather than have it sit unused because “a handful of Indians” want to conserve it, a phrase Bolsonaro has used to describe Indigenous peoples of the Amazon.

Aside from his openness about wanting to open the Amazon rainforest to mining, Bolsonaro has a history of making racist, homophobic, and misogynistic statements as a Congressman. He’s gone on the record supporting torture, shooting members of opposing political parties, and once saying Brazil’s former military dictatorship (in which he served as a captain) should have killed at least 30,000 people.

The American Museum of Natural History has not yet commented on its decision to host the group giving Bolsonaro the award.


Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.

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