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  • Indigenous peoples protest against the administration of President Jair Bolsonaro in January.

    Indigenous peoples protest against the administration of President Jair Bolsonaro in January. | Photo: Reuters file

Published 20 February 2019

Anthropologists and researchers who have worked in the area urged authorities to carry out an investigation into the threats against the Tupinamba people, as well as complete the reserve's demarcation process.

Since President Jair Bolsonaro assumed the presidency of Brazil in January, reports of threats and violent invasions against Indigenous communities appear to be escalating.

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Brazil: President Bolsonaro Deepens Anti-Indigenous Policies

According to Reporter Brasil, at least 14 Indigenous territories have been illegally seized, or threatened, by land grabbers and loggers. Leaders of the communities have criticized Bolsonaro for spewing incendiary language against the people, as well as the government's failure to provide adequate protection. 

One of Brazil's most well-known Indigenous leaders, Rosivaldo Ferreira da Silva, held an emergency meeting with government officials and human rights groups earlier this month. Da Silva, one of the leaders of the Tupinamba Indigenous people - who resides on a 47,000-hectare reserve in southern Bahia state.

The region was declared a reserve 10 years ago by FUNAI, the government's Indigenous agency, but due to delays in publishing the final approval document, the area has experienced significant deforestation from agribusiness augmentation. 

The conflict between Indigenous communities and local landowners has taken a violent turn, as da Silva has accused them of plotting his murder with the assistance of military and civilian police. Da Silva claims that the group planned to intercept him on the highway, plant his vehicle with drugs and weapons, and murder the passengers.

The Indigenous leader was especially unsettled by the alleged attempt to sully his reputation. "We live peacefully all our lives and then, when we die, they claim we are drug traffickers. That is to kill someone twice," the leader told reporters.

The government of Bahia has refused to comment on the allegations, but the Brazilian Federal Prosecution Office issued a statement promising to, "accompany the work of the authorities to guarantee the safety of Babau (as da Silva is locally known) and his family."

Anthropologists and researchers who have worked in the area urged authorities to carry out an investigation into the threats against da Silva, and the rest of the Tupinamba community, as well as complete the reserve's demarcation process.

Bolsonaro has mentioned the specific reserve as a candidate for reexamination of the region's Indigenous validity and has also spoken out against further demarcation of Indigenous lands.

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