Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s policy of “developing” the Amazon region and “integrating” the indigenous peoples has led to a weakening of regulation, including the refocusing of the state indigenous agency, FUNAI, which is now more tolerant of intrusions by loggers and goldminers into previously protected indigenous areas; as a result a record seven indigenous community leaders were killed in the first year of the Bolsonaro government.
This has provoked fierce criticism of the government from indigenous organisations and their supporters, including Brazilian Church’s agency for indigenous rights, CIMI (the Indigenist Missionary Council). FUNAI has responded by claiming that until Jair Bolsonaro’s election Brazilian indigenous policy had been limited to “subservient do-gooding and explicit paternalism, with the applause, agreement and involvement of NGOs and religious groups linked to the Marxist Theology of Liberation, headed by the Mexican bishop Samuel Ruiz,” leaving the indigenous in “a situation of poverty, dependence and exclusion”.
The bishops who head the Church’s Social Action and Ecology commissions and the secretary of the Brazilian Justice and Peace Commission have retorted that the FUNAI statement shows “incompetence and ignorance of the past”.
The Church statement recalls that the rights of Brazil’s indigenous peoples to remain on their traditional territories and maintain their culture are enshrined in the Brazilian constitution: "Indigenous policy is thus the result of the democratic participation of the indigenous peoples and their organisations and all Brazil’s political parties existing at the time in the Constituent Assembly.”
In contrast, the Bolsonaro government has “an explicit intention of expelling the peoples and communities from their traditional lands and giving legal ownership to those who seize public land.”
And “during the current pandemic”, it adds, “the indigenous peoples are doubly vulnerable, to infection with the coronavirus and to the constant threat of being driven out of their territories. The government has executed a policy contrary to the guidance of the World Health Organisation for the protection of these peoples. It violates international conventions to which Brazil is a signatory, placing the indigenous peoples at even greater risk, principally because they have low immunity to diseases.”
“CIMI is recognised worldwide for the commitment of its missionaries to the defence of the indigenous cause. We therefore express once again our solidarity with the Indigenist Missionary Council, with the indigenous peoples and their organisations.”