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“The Indian has changed, he is evolving and becoming more and more, a human being like us,” Bolsonaro said.
Brazil's far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, once again displayed his racism Thursday. He defended that Indigenous communities should integrate with the rest of society and assessed that, increasingly, the Indian is “evolving” and becoming a “human being like us.”
During a live broadcast on Facebook, Bolsonaro announced the creation of the Amazon Council, a structure created earlier this week to coordinate forest protection activities and also the defense of Indigenous reserves, when he said: “The Indian has changed, he is evolving and becoming more and more, a human being like us.”
“What we want is to integrate him into society so he can own his land,” he stressed.
For its part, the main organization representing Brazil’s 300 Indigenous tribes, the Association of Indigenous Peoples (APIB), said on Friday it would sue Bolsonaro for his racist comments towards Indigenous peoples.
“We need to put a stop to this perverse man!” Sonia Guajajara, APIB leader, wrote on Twitter. “APIB will go to court against Jair Bolsonaro for the crime of racism,” she said.
APIB lawyer Eloy Terena said the organization was preparing to make its case before the Supreme Court, the only court that can judge a president. APIB also asked Brazil’s public prosecutor to investigate Bolsonaro for the crime of racism.
A @apiboficial entrará na justiça contra Jair Bolsonaro por crime de racismo. Nós, povos indígenas, originários desta terra, exigimos respeito! Bolsonaro mais uma vez rasga a Constituição ao negar nossa existência enquanto seres humanos. É preciso dar um basta à esse perverso!
“APIB will go to court against Jair Bolsonaro for the crime of racism. Indigenous peoples, natives of this land, demand respect! Bolsonaro once again breaks the Constitution by denying our existence as human beings. “We need to put a stop to this perverse man!”
Bolsonaro had already said that the Indigenous people live in poverty like “animals in zoos” and wants to integrate them into Brazilian society and economy. Tribal leaders criticized this as a planned ethnocide aimed at eliminating their cultures.
On another occasion, he also said that Brazil should have followed Colonel George Armstrong Custer’s example in dealing “efficiently” with Indigenous peoples in the United States.
Racism is considered a serious crime in Brazil and can carry a sentence of up to five years.
Brazil has some 850,000 indigenous people, most of whom live on reservations that account for 12% of the national territory in Latin America’s largest country.
Bolsonaro has said he will not approve “a single centimeter” more of Indigenous land claims and has suggested that some of the larger reservations could have their boundaries reviewed.
Meanwhile, environmentalists warn that these moves to assimilate indigenous peoples could speed up deforestation in the Amazon where the reservations are considered effective means of preserving the forest.
Bolsonaro, a former army captain who was a congressman for 28 years before becoming president, has a long history of making racist, misogynist and homophobic statements.