Journalism from the center of the world

Brazilian federal representative Marina Silva interviewed by SUMAÚMA in October 2022. Photo: Lela Beltrão/SUMAÚMA

Dear Sumahumans,

This is the most important week of our lives, as a collective, as people who consider ourselves plural. For a great many here in the forest, it is much more than that: it is a decision over whether they have a chance to live or whether the bullets which, in these last four years, have sought out their heads and those of their children, will find them after November 1. This is what will happen if Jair Bolsonaro is reelected. It is neither exaggeration nor an election speech. Those who think it is hyperbole are simply unable to see beyond their privilege. This is the reality in the Amazon rainforest and in other natural enclaves, such as the Cerrado and the Pantanal. We at SUMAÚMA affirm and prove it with every story we publish.

This week, there were days when I personally felt such a heavy weight on my chest when I saw the blood-colored sun produced by the arsonist fires of Bolsonaro’s supporters in the Amazon that I found it hard to walk. But I did, like we all walk. I feel powerless when I find myself unable to make people understand that it is their own lives that are at risk. Not just the lives of the defenders of the forest, but mine and yours, despite our privileges. Without the Amazon, it will be impossible to live with any quality on this planet. The forest is the great regulator of our climate. And while it is also much more than that, even if it is out of selfishness, fight for every vote for Lula, because the immediate future of the forest depends on it – as does your future, and those of the children around you.

In this fourth newsletter, journalists Carla Jimenez, Verônica Goyzueta and I interviewed Marina Silva, in SUMAÚMA’s view the most important politician in Lula’s broad alliance of support. In the interview, we describe how the elected member of congress occupies a unique, and remarkably new place in Brazilian history – and why she will play a fundamental role in the destiny of the country in the years to come. But mostly Marina tells us why we have lost the right to be stupid. She urges us to broaden the landscape of our mind and fight. Read it. Then fight.

The journalist Catarina Barbosa travelled to the Marajó archipelago, which has one of the lowest Human Development Index ratings in Brazil, to investigate the allegations of sexual abuse and trafficking made by Damares Alves on October 8, in an electioneering religious service, about the children who live on these 17 islands. As is the habit of Bolsonaro’s former Minister for Women, the Family and Human Rights, Damares makes reckless claims with abandon, with the aim of re-electing her boss, relying on the impunity that Bolsonarism has encouraged in Brazil since assuming power. SUMAÚMA went to Marajó to do what good journalism does: seek the truth. And the truth we found was that the recently elected Republican party senator lied. But also that her lie hides a number of truths about the disastrous performance of the Bolsonaro government in this region of the Amazon.

Ilana Katz is one of the most important researchers in the field of childhood, notably in the area of psychoanalysis, leading her to work with children from the Redes da Maré (the Maré Network, a social support NGO) in Rio de Janeiro, with those from Santa Benedita, one of the poorest neighborhoods on the outskirts of Altamira, a city in the Amazon state of Pará, and as an advisor to the Aldeias (Villages) organization. Using these credentials as a bridge between worlds and childhoods, she focused on the facts, actions and policies of Jair Bolsonaro (including those he vetoed) in his almost four years of government. In an opinion piece, she shows us how Bolsonaro determines which of Brazil’s children are matáveis (“killable”), and how this choice affects all children, including the sons and daughters of the country’s privileged minority.

Carolina Santana, legal advisor for the Observatory of Human Rights of Isolated and Recently Contacted Indigenous Peoples, has written a heartbreaking piece about how the violation of indigenous bodies continues even after death. According to information obtained by both her and indigenous organizations, the indigenous man known as the “Man of the Hole” was reduced to two boxes of bones and remains unburied almost two months after his death. For 25 years he lived alone, after his entire people were exterminated by land grabbers and loggers, and had dressed himself in preparation for a solitary death. But not even his death was respected.

Don’t forget to check out what Guariba the howler monkey has to tell us, through the pen of Pablito, our cartoon journalist. Guariba cannot vote, but will be profoundly affected by next Sunday’s election – perhaps more so than us. We should be debating a democracy that reaches beyond humans, that contemplates the rights of nature and the peoples of nature, but Bolsonaro, and the 51 million who voted for him and everything he represents, condemn us to fight for Brazil to continue to be at least an imperfect democracy after October 30 – for even an imperfect democracy is enormously superior to a dictatorship. And I speak here not only of what I have studied and been told, but of what I lived through during the business-military dictatorship that lasted for 21 years in Brazil.

We all have a single mission before next Sunday. To fight for the votes of the undecided, those who left their votes blank or annulled, those who did not vote at all. There is no ethical room for standing on the fence. Omission is an action when we are on the brink, as we are now. Take whatever skills and knowledge you have and put yourself at the service of democracy. We will not be able to convince a sworn Bolsonaro supporter, as we are taught by Elisa Estronioli, the journalist and Movement for People Affected by Dams activist, who left her home and family on the outskirts of Altamira and went to Belém to join the fight for the votes of the undecided. But we can, with facts, evidence and legitimate arguments, show why we need to prevent Bolsonaro’s re-election. It is Elisa who reminds us of the phrase of Carlos Marighella, who fought against the dictatorship and was executed by its agents: “the only fight lost is that which is abandoned”.

Eliane Brum
Co-founder and editor of Sumaúma

Translated by James Young


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