We talked with Erika Dvorzak about preserving primeval forests in the Amazon and living in Brazil. According to her, there is little knowledge of Brazil’s environmental issues in the world, and worldwide media coverage of the Amazon fires is merely manipulation for geopolitical purposes.
What is the problem with fires on Amazon? What’s really going on?
Fire in the Amazon – due to criminal acts or natural causes – is nothing new for us Brazilians. There are fires every year; you can check the data on the website of the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research. The question is why this is only now becoming international news. This happened as soon as our president, Jair Bolsonaro, who has only been in power for 8 months, stopped transferring the Amazon Fund to international NGOs that were supposed to work to preserve the forest because they had not shown satisfactory results or because it was impossible to track what they were doing with that money.
The mainstream media was overblown and a collective hysteria arose, triggered by a lot of old and pointless photographs. It was shocking to see pictures of giraffes, koalas and lions as if this type of animal was typical of Amazon. A whole lot of nonsense! There were fires, but the government took security measures to contain them and international aid was also adopted. The situation is already under control. The fires in Bolivia are much worse, but this has not become news.
What really is behind the fire reports?
What the world is looking at now is nothing but an environmental narrative used as an instrument of manipulation for geopolitical purposes. Scientism is used to legitimize the international geopolitical agenda, which in this case is the control of energy sources. We hear all kinds of absurdities, such as the fact that the Amazon forests are the lungs of the world, that Amazonia produces 20 percent of the world’s oxygen, and so on. The Amazon represents only 1 percent of the size of the planet. How is it that it produces 20 percent oxygen? We Brazilians know that this speech is only intended to internationalize our territory.
The problem is that now it is not about the environment or the climate, but about Brazilian national sovereignty. Because of our natural resources, Brazilian territory has always been attractive. There are many metals in our underground that no other country has. The largest uranium reserves in the world are in Roraima, the territory of the Yanomami tribe. This is well known by Germans, Chinese, Norwegians and many others. What is really a problem is the number of international NGOs that delineate the territories of Indigenous peoples in the Amazon and illegally exploit our natural resources.
So it is all about an international appetite for energy resources…
The previous government continued to sell Amazonian territory to foreigners. We don’t even know what the situation really is. There are really a lot of NGOs in the Amazon area – more than 100.000 are being talked about. Comparing how many are in the northeast of the country, where the desert is and people are the poorest, we can see that the difference is disproportionate. There are only 900.000 indigenous peoples. This is not even 0.5 percent of Brazil’s total population of 210 million people. How is it that 13 percent, and this number is still growing, of our territory reserved for them? And most importantly, why aren’t they even allowed exploiting their territory? Our previous government, under pressure from NGOs, introduced various barriers to the development of these regions, on the pretext of protecting them. To be fair, our indigenous people should be the richest people in the country, but in fact many are starving. It is very clear to us that this is national sovereignty and the current government is doing everything to preserve what is ours. I have noticed on the internet that many people think that these fires are behind the interests of capital and that we are affecting global warming.
But do they know what the world is really about when it comes to protecting primeval forests in Brazil?
I see that the world knows very little about our environmental issues. Brazil is the most successful country in the world in preserving forests within its borders. More than 60 percent of our territory, 8.516.000 km2, is covered by native vegetation. The Brazilian Forestry Code is one of the strictest in the world. Among the largest countries, Brazil has the largest share of its territory (24.2 percent) under environmental protection. Agricultural activity in Brazil covers only 29 percent of the territory. We are responsible for only 2 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. There is a lot of talk about deforestation: they usually compare felling areas to São Paulo regions, etc., but do not compare to the size of the Amazon itself. There is also a distinction to be made between illegal deforestation and the permitted use of 20 per cent of the area applicable to farmers who own farms in the Amazon area. Obviously, there is an international interest in distorting this information; if Brazil exploited its agricultural potential, it would greatly jeopardize the exports of other countries.
As I understand it, you were born and live in Brazil. What is it like to live there?
I was born in Rio de Janeiro and have lived here all my life. My mother is Brazilian and my father is Slovenian from Maribor. My father’s family fled to Brazil in the 1950s. We still have contact with relatives in Maribor. Living in Brazil is wonderful and very difficult at the same time. Our culture is very rich, we have unparalleled natural beauties, the weather is pleasant throughout the year, not to mention our cuisine, music, sports, in short all the parts you hear most about us. The other side is more obscure: Brazil is a drug state. You’ve probably never heard of Foro de São Paulo either. Forum São Paulo? It is an organization founded in 1990 by Lula da Silva, Fidel Castro and Frei Betto to articulate all left-wing organizations and revive the communist movement in Latin America that was in crisis at the time because of the fall of the Soviet Union. Over the years, leftist parties, drug dealers, terrorist organizations have come together. Together they organize meetings and make decisions. Members of the São Paulo Forum have already been elected presidents throughout all Latin America.
This looks like the Mafia ...
Foro de São Paulo was hidden for 16 years by all the Brazilian media until it could no longer be done. Without understanding the role of this organization, it is completely impossible to understand what is happening in Brazil. Members of this organization have infiltrated our legislature, our judiciary, as well as every area you can think of. We can thank this for the high levels of violence, the endless bureaucracy that is destroying our lives, the embezzlement of our students, electoral fraud, etc. Such a state is suffocating. We pay the highest taxes in the world. As much as five monthly wages for a worker goes to taxes! We lived that way for many years. We now have someone in power with a completely different mind-set than before. We don’t expect miracles from anyone, the system is still “well-equipped”, but now we at least see an effort to move the country forward. The current atmosphere in Brazil gives rise to hope.
What do you do and what is your educational background?
My education is linguistics, I study philosophy, I have a lot of work with translations from Slovenian to Portuguese and most of the time I am involved in photography and video.
I would like to take this opportunity to share with you an independent film I made last year about my father’s family, more specifically the grandfather who built a school in Rio de Janeiro that bears his name still today. You can watch the movie at www.dvorsak.com. Just be sure to turn on CC captions and select “interlingua” because the movie is bilingual. It’s really worth watching.
I will definitely see it! Why did you decide to do this? Tell us more about him, please!
I decided to make the film with almost no resources, as the story deserves attention. Slovenians usually describe their country as a small country in Europe, but the stories I know from Slovenians around the world are always quite inspiring. Also, my family history is no different. Although his grandfather did not speak Portuguese, he managed to build a school in the poor area of Rio de Janeiro, which still has a significant impact on the lives of thousands of children because it is still the only public school in the region. It took me almost a year to produce the documentary, as I was alone at every step from shooting to editing. It was quite tiring, but it paid off. Today, film has even more special significance because less than a year after I made it, my grandmother died. It is valuable to our family that I immortalized her in my film.
How many Slovenians live in Brazil? Do you hang out together and how? Do you have societies?
I can’t tell the exact number. The largest community, of course, is the Union of Slovenes of Brazil in São Paulo, which functions more or less as the centre of all. The Slovenians across the country are different. I know of the communities in Brasília, Recife, and of course in Rio de Janeiro, where I live.
We meet on the most important Slovenian holidays, but we organize various events – music, culinary, book releases and so on. You can find us on Facebook at the “Slovenes in Rio de Janeiro” page. There are also the pages of “União dos Eslovenos no Brasil” and of course the “Embassy of the RS Brasília”.
We hear a lot, for example, about Venezuela and the crisis there. How do you look at it?
Brazilians sympathize with Venezuela. While the world was going crazy over Amazon, we were wondering in Brazil when they would become so interested in Venezuela. When will this become an “international crisis”? The Venezuelan dictator is a good friend of our past presidents Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff, but unfortunately we know that the money that came from corruption in our country at that time was used to consolidate not only the Venezuelan dictatorship, but many others around the world. Many Venezuelans flee to Brazil and our border is a bit chaotic. We do not know how the situation will develop, but our current government is a strong threat to the Venezuelan dictatorship.
Have you been to Slovenia yet? How do you see it from afar?
I have been to Slovenia three times, always with the intention of learning Slovenian. I took courses at the Center for Slovene as a second/foreign language at the Faculty of Arts in Ljubljana, which allowed me to communicate much more skilfully. I only learned the most basic things from my family. Today I am in touch with friends I met when I was in Slovenia. I can’t wait to make a visit again! In Brazil, there is very little talk about Slovenia. You got more attention when we hosted the Olympics. There were events then and Slovenia was generally advertised as the perfect destination.
Born in 1987 in Brazil, Erika Dvorzak has a Slovenian father. She is a translator from Slovenian into Portuguese, loves photography and film and studies philosophy. Last year, she made a documentary about her grandfather, a Slovenian from Maribor, who built a school in Rio de Janeiro, which is still called after him. Erik’s grandfather Anton Dvorzak decided to flee out of the Yugoslavia because of the communist regime. With his wife and children who came with him, he settled in the municipality of Duque de Caxias in Rio de Janeiro in 1955.
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