09 January 2019, The Tablet

Bolsonaro plan to 'integrate Amazon into the economy'

The Catholic Church said the measures were a conspiracy to 'initiate an intense process of looting of indigenous reserves'

Bolsonaro plan to 'integrate Amazon into the economy'

President Jair Bolsonaro

On his first day in office, 1 January, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro issued a decree reorganising the ministries of the federal government.

One of the measures transfers responsibility for creating indigenous reserves from the ministry of justice to the ministry of agriculture.  The ministry also acquires responsibility for breaking up large estates into family farms, previously the task of the Institute for Colonisation and Agrarian Reform. During his election campaign, Bolsonaro argued for “integrating the Amazon region into the Brazilian economy”, and has appointed as minister of agriculture a former leader of the large landowners’ lobby in the Brazilian Congress, Tereza Cristina.

These decisions were fiercely condemned by the Catholic Church agency for the defence of indigenous peoples, CIMI, which called them violations of the Brazilian constitution.  CIMI condemned the measures as “part of a conspiracy organised by the landowner lobby, leaders of the mining and logging industries in order to initiate an intense process of looting of indigenous reserves, hand them over to Brazilian and foreign business and also make the creation of new indigenous reserves impracticable”.

The decree also promises to monitor the activities of NGOs, Brazilian and foreign. Bolsonaro has accused NGOs of “exploiting and manipulating” Brazilian society.

In education the new government is proposing a partnership between schools and military colleges, to produce a new “civil-military” curriculum. On taking office the new minister of education, Ricardo Vélez Rodríguez pledged to combat “cultural Marxism” in the education system, saying he wants to educate people for the labour market and not for “socialist domination”.

The President’s decree has to be approved by Congress within 120 days.

On 8 June last year the Vatican issued the preparatory document for the special Synod of Bishops on the Amazon which will take place in October 2019 and reflect on the theme “Amazonia: New paths for the church and for an integral ecology.”

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