Brazil: A "disturbing step backwards" for indigenous communities
New government's plans are casting a dark shadow – Weakening of the Brazilian indigenous affairs agency is a "disturbing step backwards" (Press release)
According to the "Society for Threatened Peoples" (STP), the fact that the transition team of the designated Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro decided that the new Ministry of Women, Family and Human Rights will also be responsible for the indigenous authority FUNAI (Fundação Nacional do Índio) is to be seen as a "disturbing step backwards". "The plans of the new government are casting a dark shadow. They are already ignoring the needs of the indigenous population, and they are trying to restrict their hard-won rights," criticized Yvonne Bangert, the STP's indigenous peoples expert, in Göttingen on Wednesday.
In early December, a delegation of several indigenous communities had issued an official statement to the transition team, proposing that the Ministry of Justice should be responsible for FUNAI. The indigenous authority advocates for the rights of the country's indigenous communities and takes care of their protected areas, which are guaranteed by the Brazilian constitution. In order to do so, it must work closely with other organs of the Ministry of Justice.
"For the indigenous peoples, the plans to discontinue this well-established cooperation is a great danger. They fear that FUNAI will lose influence, which will most probably lead to new land conflicts," Bangert stated. Bolsonaro had already spoken out against protected areas for indigenous peoples during his election campaign. He announced that, contrary to the ban in force, it should be possible to sell the last retreat areas of the indigenous communities the industry, to exploit raw materials and to establish other major projects.
The new Ministry of Women, Family and Human Rights will be led by evangelical pastor Damares Alves. Many indigenous communities do not trust her because she is a co-founder of the organization Atini – Voz pela Vida (Atini – Voice for Life), which is known to spread prejudices against indigenous people. Meanwhile, the public prosecution office started investigations against the organization. Atini is accused of violating the dignity of the indigenous communities. Together with the Christian missionary organization Jocum (Jovens com uma Missão – Youth with a Mission), Atini produced a video that falsely claims that child murder is a widespread phenomenon in indigenous communities.
Header image: Fabio Rodrigues Pozzebom via Wikimedia Commons