Social Issues

Brazil continues undoing Bolsonaro’s anti-indigenous policies

Brasilia, Apr 28 (EFE).- Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva took another step Friday to dismantle the anti-indigenous policies of rightist predecessor Jair Bolsonaro, resuming the recognition of territorial claims after a four-year-long hiatus.

“We are going to legalize the indigenous lands,” Lula said during a visit to the encampment set up this week in Brasilia by some 6,000 indigenous people who came to the capital to denounce the invasion of their reserves by illegal miners and loggers, with disastrous effects on the environment and their lives.

“To achieve zero deforestation in Amazonia by 2030, we are going to need you as guardians of the forests,” the president told the group before signing a decree establishing the boundaries of six new indigenous reserves in the states of Acre, Alagoas, Amazonas, Ceara, Goias, and Rio Grande do Sul, bringing the total to nearly 600.

The largest of the new territories is the Kariri-Xoco reserve in the northeastern state of Alagoas, with 2,300 inhabitants, while the smallest has only nine permanent residents.

The new reserves amount to roughly 560,000 hectares (2,162 sq mi). All told, the indigenous reserves cover 14 percent of Brazil’s land area.

“Before the arrival of the Portuguese, the indigenous occupied 100 percent of the territory,” Lula noted.

Roughly 90 percent of the indigenous territories, with a population of around 500,000, are designated by law as environmentally protected areas, yet the Bolsonaro administration allowed miners, loggers, and ranchers to operate in those areas with impunity.

Sonia Guajajara, Brazil’s first minister of Indigenous Peoples, said that Bolsonaro instituted a “policy totally engaged in the negation of the rights of the indigenous peoples.”

She said that illegal mining in Amazonia has polluted rivers and jeopardized the food supply of the indigenous inhabitants, as exemplified by the “tragedy” of the Yanomami people of Brazil’s far north.

In January, in the weeks following Lula’s inauguration, stories emerged from the Yanomami reserve – a territory twice the size of Switzerland – about hundreds of people suffering from severe malnutrition.

Also speaking during the event at the encampment was Raoni, a 93-year-old Kayapo chieftain with decades spent advocating for the defense of Amazonia.

Noting that some 800 additional indigenous territories are awaiting recognition, he asked Lula to oppose an attempt by the Brazilian right to limit recognition to territories that were occupied by the original peoples when the current constitution took effect in 1988,

“We existed hundreds of years before the constitution,” Raoni said. EFE ed/dr

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