By Axel Bugge
BRASILIA, Brazil, May 5 (Reuters) – As many as three out of four Brazilians believe a foreign country could invade Brazil to take control of its vast natural resources, according to an opinion poll commissioned by an animal rights group.
The survey by pollster Ibope was the first of its kind to put the question directly to the public in Brazil, where the army has made defending the Amazon jungle region a priority since the end of military rule in 1985.
The poll, published on Thursday, showed 75 percent of Brazilians saw a military invasion by a rich country as a risk because of Brazil’s resources. Nineteen percent saw no such threat and six percent did not respond.
“We never imagined it would be so big,” said Dener Giovanini, general coordinator of the Renctas animal rights group. “This is practically a national paranoia.”
The environment ministry had no immediate comment.
The Amazon, a region larger than western Europe, is home to up to 30 percent of the world’s animal and plant species, making it a rich source of potential cures for diseases.
About 30 percent of the world’s fresh water runs through the jungle, an area of continuous tropical forest.
Those resources and rapid deforestation have prompted some foreign environmentalists to suggest Brazil cannot be trusted to administer the Amazon. Some Brazilians say they suspect the United States covets the region for economic gain.
Giovanini said the fears of invasion could be explained by the fact that most Brazilians believed the country did not respect the environment.
“I personally believe that this possibility exists if Brazil really does not change its criteria to conserve the biodiversity of the Amazon,” Giovanini told Reuters.
“Because the Amazon is in a very critical situation, I really fear that the international community will do something.”
The poll of 2,002 people was carried out between April 8 and 13 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.2 percentage points.