Brazil: A disaster for indigenous peoples
Escalation of violence against indigenous peoples shortly after Bolsonaro's inauguration – Indigenous organizations publish alarming report (Press Release)
The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) is alarmed by the escalation of violence against the indigenous peoples of Brazil under President Jair Bolsonaro. "According to a devastating report published by several indigenous organizations – which was submitted to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights – there have been 16 major incidents since Bolsonaro's election victory in October last year, including four murders, stonings, forest clearings, threats, and arson attacks", criticized Yvonne Bangert, the STP's expert on indigenous peoples in Göttingen on Friday. "The report also mentions arson attacks on indigenous health centers and the use of rubber bullets in arbitrary attacks on indigenous communities. In the face of such a shocking escalation in such a short time, we can only be afraid about the extent of arbitrariness and violence the approximately 300 indigenous peoples of Brazil might still be facing."
The report was presented to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in the course of its meeting in Sucre (Bolivia) on Wednesday. It was issued by the umbrella organization of the indigenous communities in Brazil (Brazil's Indigenous People Articulation, APIB), the Coordination of the Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon (COIAB), the articulation of the indigenous peoples of the north-east, Minas Gerais, the organization Espirito Santoi Apoinme, and the pan-American indigenous legal aid association Indian Law Resource Center (ILRC).
Bolsonaro had already announced measures against the country's indigenous communities during his election campaign, and immediately after taking office on January 1, 2019, the new right-wing president – who is supported by the fundamentalist Free Churches of Brazil – took the first measures to cut down on the rights of the indigenous peoples. The competencies of the country's indigenous authority FUNAI were split up between the Ministry of Agriculture, which now also deals with land issues, and the Ministry of Women, Family, and Human Rights. "Many indigenous representatives see this as a declaration of war, as the powerful agricultural lobby is their biggest competitor for land and natural resources," Bangert emphasized. "Agriculture Minister Tereza Cristina has already announced initiatives to redistribute indigenous land. She is said to represent the interests of industrial agriculture while she doesn't care much about indigenous land rights, as her office would require. She will probably stay in line with the president, who stated that he will try to prevent further indigenous land lawsuits."
Header image: Senado Federal via Flickr.