Brazil's far-right President Jair Bolsonaro gives farm ministry the power to decide on Indigenous land, which could spell disaster for the Indigenous community.
Brazil’s newly-inaugurated president issued an executive order Wednesday making the Ministry of Agriculture responsible for deciding on lands inhabited by Indigenous peoples. The move will allow vested interests to exploit the Indigenous population and bring environmental disaster to its Amazon region.
During his presidential campaign, then-far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro said he was considering placing Indigenous affairs under the Ministry of Agriculture, alleging that lands should be opened to commercial activities currently banned in an effort to protect the Amazon.
Bolsonaro has now officially moved the Indigenous affairs agency FUNAI into a new ministry for family, women and human rights which is led by evangelical pastor Damares Alves. The key decision-making power on land claims will be in the hands of an agriculture ministry with deep ties to Brazil’s powerful farm sector.
Critics say Bolsonaro’s plan to open Indigenous reservations to commercial activity will destroy native cultures and languages by integrating the tribes into Brazilian society.
Environmentalists say the native peoples are the last custodians of the Amazon, the world’s largest rainforest that is vital for climate stability.
Brazil's new president also raised the prospect of building hydro-electric power stations in the Amazon and a rail line through the heart of the rainforest that would greatly restrict water access and forcibly remove Indigenous communities.
In February, he vowed not to give up "one centimeter more" of land to Indigenous communities who are already threatened by illegal loggers, cattle ranchers, and an expanding soy monoculture farming industry. Brazil is home to around 60 percent of the Amazon rainforest.
Sonia Guajajara, the leader of Brazil's Indigenous Peoples Liason or Articulacao dos Povos Indigenas do Brasil (APBI) which represents more than 300 Brazilian Indigenous groups, called on the European Union early December to impose trade sanctions on Brazil to avoid an ecological disaster and potential genocide of Indigenous population.
A former army captain, Bolsonaro took office in Brazil Tuesday saying he had freed the country from “socialism and political correctness.”
His supporters hope he will cut through red tape to kick-start the economy, tackle violent drug gangs and run a graft-free government.
Others fear he will unleash bloodshed by making guns more readily available and by rolling back social victories for minorities.