Meet the Ranchers Who Claim the Brazilian Amazon is Theirs to Burn | The Dispatch

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It’s moving fast. It’s not just a ground fire. It’s reaching up
into the canopy here, too, and just scorching everything. Is this the usual amount of fire that you see? Are you worried about
the illicit activity that happens here? Pará, Brazil. Parts of the rainforest
in this region have lost so much
tree cover it hardly looks like the Amazon. I’m on a highway called
the BR-163. In August, this corridor
for soy and beef exports lit up like an inferno. Many of the fires were
started on protected lands on a single day,
a so-called Day of Fire. So, I take the highway here to
a protected reserve that saw major burning on that day. It’s called the Jamanxim
National Forest. This year, the Jamanxim lost over 45 square miles
of tree cover. That’s an area twice
the size of Manhattan. It’s the worst deforestation
of all protected areas in Brazil. But many people who live here see this as progress. And it has a lot
to do with beef. Brazil is the world’s largest
exporter of beef. About half of the cattle
are raised on pasture that used to be rainforest. And demand is growing. I’m visiting an annual
barbecue and auction near the Jamanxim. But it’s not your typical
backyard get-together. Some landowners and
ranchers here brazenly defy environmental laws. Last year, a government
report linked this man, a union leader,
to land-grabbing schemes. This woman, head of a
national association, was fined for burning
350 acres of rainforest. This man, a local mayor, was caught destroying over 700 acres
of virgin rainforest inside the Jamanxim reserve. They all deny wrongdoing. What producers here want is to privatize the reserves,
and there’s hostility here towards anyone who
tries to stop them. The producers are petitioning an important government
official, Nabhan Garcia, appointed by
President Bolsonaro to open up the Amazon
for development. There’s no question
which side Mr. Garcia’s on. He’s a rancher and
farmer himself. According to your own
government studies, many of the people in some
of these protected areas came in after the
park was created. They’re in there
illegally according to your own government
standards right now. Part of the reason we’re here is because of all
the fires, right? To be clear, deforesting
land without authorization is illegal in Brazil. It’s seized land
that’s logged, burned and converted,
mostly for grazing. We’re talking millions of
acres, billions of dollars and a web of
criminal activity. But at the core
of the issue is what turns out to be a
pretty complicated question. Who does all this
land belong to? I catch up with
Luiz Helfenstein, who I’d met at the barbecue. His ranch is right at the edge
of the Jamanxim National Forest. He considers himself one of the pioneers here. When you started, is this the first
settlement that you built? Luiz came here
back in the ’80s. He was handed 4,000
acres of rainforest, part of a government plan
to develop the Amazon. That’s the BR-163. November 1994. Then the political winds
shifted and preservation became the priority. In 2006, the government
established the Jamanxim National Forest, taking back most of the land previously given to Luiz
and other producers. They felt cheated,
and some have responded by grabbing and
burning protected land. I take a ride with
Agamenon da Silva Menezes. Is this your car? He’s the head of a union
for ranchers out here. Was the Day of Fire an example of
that disobedience? But satellite data confirms there was an unusual spike in
the number of fires on Aug. 10. Local reporters wrote about
this so-called Day of Fire, exposing a coordinated plan
among ranchers and land-grabbers to burn newly
cleared forest. One of those reporters,
Adecio Piran, soon found his face
on a wanted poster. Did you ever receive
death threats or threats to your personal safety? That type of intimidation helps explain how so much criminal
activity can go unpunished. Last year, 30
environmental activists were murdered in Brazil. I follow a group of
firefighters with one of Brazil’s
environmental agencies into a biological reserve. The agency has been
attacked by locals and their authority undermined
by Bolsonaro’s government. None of the men will
speak on the record. So this is what the effort
to protect the forest here now looks like: a handful of men
carving control lines and putting out brush fires
with a leaf blower. It takes a bird’s-eye view
to capture the magnitude of what they’re up against. This fire is nearly
four miles long. According to
Brazilian satellites, more than a soccer field
worth of rainforest is cleared every minute. I’m back on the road, driving off federal land,
when I see these two trucks. They pull on to the
BR-163 highway with loads of fresh logs.


  1. Amigos, aqui no Brasil é normal todos os anos terem queimadas, porém esse ano a oposição ao governo atual vêm querendo denegrir nosso representante, todos os anos há queimadas por que somente esse ano veio a tona? Infelizmente muitos dos brasileiros esqueceram que somos uma nação única, que devemos lutar contra todos os governos corruptos, qual é o cidadão que aceita seus representantes políticos a roubarem os recursos de impostos? Estamos passando por um período turbulento que a oposição do governo atual pratica as mais absurdas formas de denigrir a imagem do nosso presidente! Como todo pais no mundo temos nossas diferenças pois estamos em uma democracia, orem pelo nosso pais, para que possamos passar por tudo isso, pois sempre é a população que acaba pagando as contas de um governo corrupto. Para aqueles que contestam o governo atual, nunca roubaram tanto o nosso pais como roubaram durante o governo do Partido dos Trabalhadores ( PT ). Obrigado a todos…

  2. And here is the crazy part: if we are less cows and more yaks, this wouldn't be happening. Seriously, yaks are just little, hairy cows that can live in the harshest environments but taste delicious. They could raise enough yaks on the Alaskan tundra to feed all of Brazil and the USA.

  3. I am Brazilian, sorry it is a big lie, Amazon is not in fire, the statistics shows that this month "oct/2019" we have the lowest index from 10 years, so please think about it. 600 ONGs inside Amazon at least 20 years, and now the money stopped.

  4. Israel is behind this crisis. They need to deforest the world so that life on earth can be squeezed to 40 million. They want all other religions be finished. Understand it.

  5. Esse vídeo é de ideal esquerdo comunista, pois tem a intenção de denegrir a imagem do atual governo. Eu moro no Mato Grosso, Brasil, e sabemos que os próprios indígenas colocam fogo em suas reservas todo ano porque isso é tradição da cultura deles.

  6. This problem happens since the last government (PT) and It was much worst. Don’t believe in the campaign sponsored by the local broadcast companies like Rede Globo, Folha de São Paulo etc… they lost a lot of money payed by Lula (PT political party). These corrupts are now in the jail and these companies are very sad about that.

  7. The TRUMP of the Tropics and just like the orange one he is ignorant with a fanatic and unyielding fan base that will believe in anything he says they have to believe and attack facts and logic with all their strength as those things are like poison to their Ideas. and in a 1984 style they are saying that there is no fire while their home is in fire

  8. The rancher presents the problem so eloquently: there are too many breadwinners in the area. Hence, population control is the only answer.

  9. Blame the beef?! I'm sure a cow is lighting the matches to start the fires…Look deeper, follow the money & purpose of all of it. Population control? How about other resources not revealed to the public. Always some spoiled rich people, greedy for matter who or what stands in their way. Stop blaming cattle for everything–fires, methane gases,etc..look in the mirror at your own waste of resources.

  10. No one had a problem when this happen under the previous president for some reason I wonder what could have possibly change

  11. The archers are owners of the land. the new president looks like a wise man. The forests belong to Brazil and only they can decide what to do with the lands they own.

  12. The amazon is own by eath, not owned by any government or person, please protect it, instead of burning them to give yourself a benifit!

  13. Step 1: Burn down miles of jungle "for progress"
    Step 2: Wait for it to rain
    Step 3: Watch as 3,000 people die in floods and landslides
    Step 4: Complain about "acts of God".


  15. o Brasil esteve parado por muito tempo, a região amazônica é potencialmente o lugar mais rico do mundo e é inadmissível que estados e cidades desta região não possam ter o direito de aproveitar o potencial econômico deste bem inestimável que é a Amazônia do Brasil, felizmente o Brasil hoje tem um governo progressista (no sentido original da palavra) e o atraso intrínseco à escória esquerdosa, dos incompetentes governos anteriores, pressionados por pressão de ambientalistas xiitas, lobistas e ONGueiros sustentados por esmola de países europeus, simplesmente morreu! o Brasil está disposto a dar seguimento ao seu programa de exploração econômica sustentável da floresta amazônica e os gringos, juntamente com os esquerdosos colonizados que agem como verdadeiros macac0s com complexo de inferioridade, que vão se fuder! o Brasil agora tem presidente, talkêi?!

  16. What a rotten people are those cattle ranchers. The one way to turn on them is to stop eating Beef. It will destroy them like they are destroying the gift of a land God gave to the world. They are greedy fools atavistic in every sense of the word.

  17. Once again it’s all about money.These people are unaware
    of the environmental impact on the rest of the World.
    I wonder if the citizens of Brazil
    are aware of this impact and if it is really an accurate portrayal of the situation.

  18. Thank you NYT for presenting this issue as neutrally as possible. It comes down to beef mainly. 60% of the worlds beef comes from Brazil. If you want to help, stop eating beef. It’s that simple. What’s not so simple is the land rights. And all you have to do is ask the question: “ how long can cattle ranching go on before it destroys the world irreversibly” maybe 10 more years, maybe 10.

  19. Hi, I'm the NYT correspondent for this story. Thanks for taking the time to watch. If you have thoughts or questions for me about the video and the scenes we captured, feel free to post here. I'll try my best to answer.

  20. The worst of the Amazon fires are in Bolivia, and they’ve been contained and dealt with. Furthermore Brazil is finally putting more effort towards containing and putting out the fires, with the Help of rain.

  21. The Amazon burns every year during dry season. This year is an avarage year. In 2008 we has almost the double amount of fires, and nobody talked about that. You are only talking now because of political bias, you are against Bolsonaro!

  22. You could tell the truth. This fire burns every year and it's set by the Farmers. This fire is the smallest fire set since they started doing this to prep the land for farming. In fact, fires are significantly lower today than they were in 1911 when the practice was fist tracked. But you gotta sell the end of the world.

  23. As a Brazilian myself, I feel embarrassed about how corrupt and uneducated the Brazilian government is, but as seen here, the government is not the only one to blame. In Brazil we have a saying "jeitinho brasileiro", which translates "the Brazilian way", meaning Brazilians always find a way to be sneaky about life for their own personal gains. Not saying that other cultures don't act the same, but we clearly see here that the Amazon is being destroyed because of the lack of education of the people in that area. This is just so sad!

  24. To put things in perspective: Europe is almost void of large forest due to thousands of years of deforestation.
    Then the 'white devil' came to the Americas and they did the same there.

    If the Amazon rainforest is an international matter, money should flow to Brazil from other countries so they can preserve the Amazon. Saying Brazil can't use a large part of its land area without anything in return is an infringement on Brazil's sovereignty. Only with multilateral agreements and the money to implement them, can this be done.

    NATO, could stop spending billions on their futile wars of neo-colonialism in Africa and the Middle-East, and give the money to these ranchers in Brazil so they can find alternatives to burning the forests down!

  25. "No no no no, that's yet another farce, yet another lie, spread by people who don't want the best for (INSERT COUNTRY), by (COUNTRY)'s enemies. That's a lie!"

    >> typical populist talk, diverting blame on "others", no substance, making it look like they're the good guy. Bolsonaro's government is a disgrace for Brazil and for the world.

  26. Watch this world go into chaos, for our politcal greed. We are feeling the effects already. Getting snowfall in places that dont get snow.
    Just a little more before even the bible says the earth shall be burnt amd made a new.


  28. Question, are you guys wanting to stop the natives not the same as those colonialists? Implementing your morals & superiority to them?
    My solution is those who really care, try to give the natives money or pay them to maintain the forest… pay them more than they would earn from the burning. Also, if you really care… give up your job & live there.

  29. A Amazônia não e nossa como diz o senhor aí na reportagem, a Amazônia e do mundo mas está em território brasileiro só isso. Temos que cuidar dela sim.

  30. So we’re just going to forget about the black Amazon tribes that live in the jungle and aren’t greedy money consumed pigs.

  31. We im Brazil are the main victims of this, as burning down the amazon will make southeastern Brazil – the country's economic hub and demographic center – all but unsuitable for human life. A few years back, São Paulo went through its worst draugh to date; other major metropolitan areas in the region, such as Belo Horizonte and Rio, are also threatened by dwindling rainfall. If the amazon goes, much of this country turns into a desert.

    How can anyone support this folly?

  32. The propaganda starts early on this one, you do realize Brazil produces more Soy on those lands than they do beef right? Just wanted to point that out.

  33. It is easy to stand as an environmentalist when you are not the Brazilian paying the price of the country’s extreme land deficiency.

  34. They world have so mutch interested of or Amazonian and now we have a President protect or interested and is the only one SAY the Amazonian it's not from the world it's from BRAZIL and this fires of course it's not normal they hands are from criminals are tried all for put down or new government just for protect or better and rich resources if you thing they countrys wanna protect or tree's you are just ignorant they just wanna or resources of the most rich place of the world and this newspapper it's just a garbage with his translate confuse about bolsonaro say STOP Lie

  35. Lol dont just blame the ranchers…they are just the result of years of the greedy capitalists n politicians have made a solid example for these ranchers: seek, grab n destroy.
    Now lets eat our steak…cheers

  36. Here'w developing country logic: Funny that world got angry when brazil burned their forest which they want to get benefit from… But then world stays quiet when the "legal" deforestation and land grabbing done by the western investors, they do that for decades now.
    At least these ranchers dont burn someone else's forest.

  37. I keep seeing "mine, mine, mine" everywhere. No one stops to think about anyone else. We're a selfish species that hungers for power and riches. I hope that this repitition of burning over the next hundred years doesn't actually destroy the land, for the sake of Brazil. If it does, I'm sure they'll be quick to blame someone else though, wont they?
    In that scenario, they'll keep denying help out of pride and one day start to beg for it. Should the help listen then? I say once you make your bed you must lie in it.
    Hopefully it's whatever though and we can keep living our selfish, wasteful lives.

  38. left people and ongs is taking fire criminal ones,some brazilian indian want send our gold diamonds and more 4 money ,very disgusting people on the left here they want corruption comes back to power

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