Jair Bolsonaro, who has just been sworn in as Brazil’s 38th president, once declared: ‘It’s a shame that the Brazilian cavalry wasn’t as efficient as the Americans, who exterminated the Indians.’’
He’s an evil prick who once got an entire segment of Last Week Tonight devoted to him (watch the video below for a truly upsetting experience) and he’s been very vocal about his intention to close down FUNAI, the government’s indigenous affairs department. This will embolden the illegal logging and gold mining gangs who operate in protection lands and aren’t afraid of using violence against locals. Aside from the murders, the miners have exposed the local tribes to measles and other diseases they don’t have immunities for, and the medical supplies are woefully inadequate to respond to.
To Bolsonaro and other hardliners, the Indigenous people are seen as obstacles to agribusiness, extractive industries, roads and dams. As more of the rainforests are destroyed for the resources they contain, attacks against the tribes that live there have skyrocketed. Many of the killings don’t even make the news until a long time after they happen.
The Guardian has more details on the politics behind the story:
In May, Yanomami reported that two uncontacted members of the tribe had been murdered by miners. FUNAI had closed its protection post in the area due to a lack of funds and, while prosecutors have ordered the post to be reopened, the authorities have not yet investigated the killings.
Bolsonaro opposed the creation of the Yanomami territory in the 1980s, calling it a “crime against the motherland”, and a “scandal”. He affirmed his beliefs in 2017, saying he regarded the creation of the reserve as “high treason”, and there are murmurs that this is an area already in the crosshairs of the new administration.
Bolsonaro intends to take FUNAI out of the justice ministry and into a newly created ministry for women, family and human rights. This is a move sure to weaken the department’s efficacy and clout – it has already been undermined by huge budget cuts. Bolsonaro has appointed Damares Alves as the new minister, an evangelical preacher and congressional aide who co-founded Atini, a controversial group that evangelises in indigenous communities and is subject to an investigation by public prosecutors for inciting racial hatred against indigenous peoples.
This is a human rights and environmental disaster. For more, check out the FUNAI site here