"A fox to keep the geese": Brazil's Ministry of Agriculture now responsible for indigenous protected areas
Bolsonaro must enter an eye-level dialogue with indigenous peoples, and the unrestrained attack on their land rights must be stopped (Press release)
On Thursday, the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) called on Jair Bolsonaro, the new Brazilian President, to accept the offer of the indigenous Aruak, Baniwa and Apuriña from the Amazon region to enter an eye-level dialogue with the country's indigenous communities. At the same time, the Göttingen-based human rights organization criticized Bolsonaro's decision to transfer the responsibility for the indigenous protected areas from the Indian Authority FUNAI to the Ministry of Agriculture as an "open attack on the land rights of the approximately 300 indigenous peoples of Brazil," which had to be stopped immediately.
"Bolsonaro is setting a fox to keep the geese. The powerful agrarian lobby is unscrupulous when it comes to depriving indigenous communities of their livelihoods, with the only purpose of exploiting ever new forested areas," explained STP-representative Yvonne Bangert. "Thus, the president is turning his campaign promise – to focus on the economic development of the Amazon region at the expense of the indigenous people and the environment – into a bitter reality. The director of the Environmental Protection Agency (IBAMA), which is supposed to cut down on illegal logging by ranchers, timber workers and mining companies, has already given in to his pressure. She decided to stand down on January 7."
According to the STP, Bolsonaro is also questioning important pillars of a democratic and pluralistic society. Thus, he has accused foreign NGOs and international organizations of deliberately manipulating the country's indigenous peoples. By means of a decree, he is now planning to monitor and coordinate the work of human rights activists.
Shortly after Bolsonaro took office in early 2019, representatives of the Aruak, Baniwa and Apuriña had written an open letter to Bolsonaro (on behalf of the indigenous organization Rede de Cooperação Amazônica, RCA), to ask him to enter a dialogue – and as a means to protest against government tutelage and a forced integration policy. In the letter, the representatives emphasize that the indigenous peoples have the ability and autonomy to speak for themselves – and that they are fully capable of reflecting and discussing the rights of indigenous peoples, which are guaranteed in Articles 231 and 232 of the Federal Constitution and in Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the UN Declaration on Indigenous Peoples."
Header image: Senado Federal via Flickr