Lalo de Almeida: “What scares the most is not that there is a madman like Bolsonaro, but that half of Brazil supports him”

Spread the love

Lalo de Almeida: "What scares the most is not that there is a madman like Bolsonaro, but that half of Brazil supports him"

Lalo de Almeida (Sao Paulo, 1970) has devoted much of his career as a photojournalist to denounce and document abuses against the Amazonia. A work, entitled 'Amazon Dystopia', which has led him to win the World Press Photo 2022to the Long Term Project. Until December 11, the Center for Contemporary Culture of Barcelona (CCCB) is hosting an exhibition with all the winning photographs of the prestigious award, and De Almeida has visited Casa Seat this Friday to explain his vision of the reality of this region. Hours before the conference, she attended EL PERI & Oacute;DICO.

In an interview, he has commented that Brazilians know more about the United States than the Amazon. what? what is and what What does this region mean for Brazil?

Brazil is a continental country, of an enormous dimension, and the south has always been disconnected from the north, from the Amazon region. Southerners have never recognized it as part of their identity. They have treated it like a colony, where everything was extracted, wood, gold, energy, etc., without thinking about the people who live there, in environmental preservation. In fact, the environmental issue has never been a topic of debate in Brazil, not only about the Amazon, but in general. I think that's it. changing now. People are feeling the impact of the climate crisis and beginning to see the problem. When there is rationing of water in São Paulo because it does not rain, they realize that it is due to deforestation and more and more voices cry out against the destruction of the Amazon. But culturally it is a very distant relationship. Traveling to the Amazon is expensive, most people from Brazil cannot travel and those who can prefer to go to Miami.

In school they teach the wealth that What does it mean for the country to have this region?

Little bit. There is no conscience. This is changing because the world's agenda is also changing. Changing. But there is no culture of protecting the Amazon. For many years, it has been considered as a green desert, a wild place, with angry Indians, without valuing the indigenous culture, without talking about what it really is. There are 30 million people living in the Amazon, more than 500,000 indigenous people with very different cultures, it is of enormous wealth. And that is not transferred to the Brazilians, who have many prejudices with the indigenous question and the culture of the Amazon.

In 2012 he started with the project awarded with the World Press Photo. How has the evolution of the Amazon been in this decade?

I started in 2012 with the construction of the Belo Monte hydroelectric plant. I went by chance to cover the subject for the newspaper I work for and when I started working on it. to see what was happening I understood the process of occupation of the Amazon. I saw with my own eyes what I had read in the history books, how those processes were being repeated, that way of treating the Amazon as a colony, the same for 500 years. I took awareness of social and environmental impacts. Belo Monte was my starting point to start photographing other projects, other occupation processes, such as the Transamazon Highway. Around him are all kinds of crimes and illegalities, the search for gold, the illegal extraction of wood…

What? meant the arrival of Jair Bolsonaro to the Government of Brazil in 2019?

The destruction process did not start. with Bolsonaro, but he stepped on it. The accelerator. destroyed The environmental control agencies, the agencies that take care of the indigenous populations completely completely, and his speech was very damaging. He sees the environment as an obstacle to development. And it has led people living in the Amazon to greatly increase illegal activities. These people feel empowered, as if they had a safe-conduct to do whatever they want. If the president supports me, who will be? against, they wonder.

And what is the modus operandi of these people?

In most cases, they are local politicians who have money to invest and take advantage of poverty and cheap labor. It is somewhat the same logic as drug trafficking, which takes advantage of cheap, young labor, with no prospects for the future, who find a means of survival in this. Most of the workers are poor, illiterate people who live in a regime of almost slavery. In reality, the problem in the Amazon is not environmental, it is social. If we don't solve the poverty issue, this is going to go on forever.

Is the Lula government going to be able to reverse all this damage?

I think that at least the government is going to point in the right direction. But it's not going to be an overnight change, it's going to be a long process. These four years, Bolsonaro has managed to implant this mentality in the people who are there. He has managed to completely reverse the values. The government agencies that were there to protect the environment or indigenous communities are seen as enemies of the people. The same goes for journalists. Instead, the people who commit these crimes are seen as bringing development to the region. That is why the new government must not go for a control model that closes illegal businesses and leaves people without a livelihood, we must look for a different model that brings income to the people who live in the jungle. Otherwise we are just going to be shooting blind, perpetuating something that will never end. But I think Lula is going to change everything. In fact, during the eight years that he governed it was the period in which it decreased the most. deforestation in Brazil.

Have you had problems doing your job due to the accusation against journalists?

In the last four years the situation has become very, very tense, not only with the press, there was much more conflict in general. After working for many years in the Amazon, he began to be places where it was no longer feasible to go. I started to protect myself by avoiding some situations. And I remember once I had to run away because a Bolsonarista was chasing me with a machete for taking a picture of his truck loaded with illegal wood. He didn't know I was a journalist, he thought he was a worker for an NGO, another mortal enemy of Bolsonaro. and came out behind me to the cry of “oenegero, son of a bitch”.

How did he live? Election day last Sunday?

I almost died. It was like a nightmare. In the first round it seemed that Lula was going to win, he had a chance. did not win but many Bolsonaro politicians, deputies, senators, were elected to the chambers. The most conservative people, the most crazy, were chosen. We spent a month suffering. The day of the election I was just recovering from covid and I spent 10 hours sitting in front of the television following the count minute by minute. When he met Lula's victory was a great relief.

Do you think the country has ended up divided in two?

Yes, totally. What scares the most is not that there is a madman like Bolsonaro, but that half the country supports that madman.