Brazil — The new President Jair Bolsonaro was sworn in on January 1st.
He feels emboldened to roll back rainforest protections and legitimize the police’s use of deadly force.
He portrays himself as a law and order candidate who will use force to “change Brazil”.
All those who work tirelessly to help Indigenous People protect and defend their land, their culture, their way of life and most importantly the rainforest cannot but be disheartened, worried by his pledge to wipe out the Indigenous communities, roll back environmental protection and make easier to destroy the world’s biggest rainforest.
Bolsonaro owes his election to the powerful ultra-conservative evangelists, and his first move was the decision to name Damares Alves, an anti-abortion evangelic preacher, as head of a new ministry overseeing women, families, human rights, and Indigenous communities, and he also appointed a foreign minister who believes that climate change is a Marxist plot.
It is a signal of intolerance and things cannot but get worse for our friends, the Indigenous People.
No area faces a greater risk than the environment. Bolsonaro has repeatedly signaled his desire to roll back environmental protection and make it easier to sell out the world’s biggest forest to private companies, and cattle ranching.
This is why one of his first moves was to transfer the responsibilities for demarcating Indigenous territories from the Ministry of Justice to the Ministry of Agriculture. The new Agriculture Minister, Tereza Cristina, is part of the agribusiness who has criticized giving large swaths of land to the Indigenous communities. This will make it all but impossible for new lands to be identified and demarcated for Indigenous communities’, and the Quilombolas’ remote areas inhabited by descendants of former slaves.
All this does not come as a surprise if we read Bolsonaro’s tweet which stated that, “Less than one million people live in those places isolated from the real Brazil. They are exploited and manipulated by non-profits. Together we will integrate those citizens and give value to all Brazilians”.
Some candid souls might think that he is great and generous, while we all know that his goal is to sell out the forest, make profits, and wipe out the Indigenous Peoples.
By mentioning non-profits, he also identifies all the NGOs working in Brazil or supporting Indigenous communities from outside as enemies of his controversial and eccentric plans.
In fact, the President has used an executive order to give his secretary potentially far-reaching and restrictive powers over NGOs working in Brazil and from outside.
The only hope is that this executive order shall be ratified within 120 days by Congress, and that Congress remembers that the respect of the rights of all communities, including NGOs, are enshrined in the Brazilian constitution.