By James Moules
New Year’s Day, 2019 – Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right demagogue elected in what was once one of Latin America’s most steadfast progressive strongholds, is sworn in as President of the Federative Republic of Brazil.
Following the controversial decision by the country’s electoral court to bar former president and frontrunner Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva from running, Bolsonaro was elected on a platform of liberalisation of gun laws, reversing affirmative action and exploitation of the Amazon Rainforest’s resources.
Bolsonaro has an extensive history of issuing bigoted remarks, frequently indulging in flagrantly racist, misogynistic and homophobic rhetoric. Many of his quotes have been widely reported, and to detail them in full would be nothing short of gratuitous.
And yet his hate fuelled worldview does not stop at words. Bolsonaro routinely promised that, if elected president, he would appropriate the land of Brazil’s indigenous peoples and cripple the power of FUNAI, the nation’s protection agency for these communities.
True to his word, one of Bolsonaro’s first actions as president was to remove the power to identify and designate indigenous lands from FUNAI and give it to the Ministry of Agriculture, a move slammed by Survival International as an attack on indigenous communities.
Their fears were realised. While attacks on Brazil’s indigenous communities are not new, the past year has seen a fresh wave of assaults. Just earlier this month, Amazon Guardian Paulo Paulino Guajajara was killed in the Araribóia Indigenous Territory.
Sonia Guajajara, the Executive Coordinator of Articulação dos Povos Indígenas do Brasil (APIB), said: “President Bolsonaro wants to destroy the indigenous peoples of Brazil. His racism and hate encourage miners and loggers to invade our territories and kill our people.
“Well, I’ve got news for him – we love our lands much more than he hates us, and we will never allow him to destroy us, or the forests we have protected for so long.”
On November 14, APIB staged a demonstration outside the Brazilian Embassy in London as part of its Indigenous Blood: Not a Single Drop More advocacy tour to demand an end to the Bolsonaro regime’s persecution of their land and people.
The protestors also presented the embassy with Survival International’s Racist of the Year Award for President Bolsonaro.
Survival International’s Director Stephen Corry said: “Since coming to power, President Bolsonaro has mounted a ruthless assault on the rights of Brazil’s first peoples, and is hell bent on opening up their lands to big business.
“His openly racist comments and refusal to accept indigenous peoples’ rights to their own lands are fuelling violence against indigenous people across Brazil. If he gets his way, the country’s first peoples will be wiped out. But they’re fighting back with energy, bravery and determination, and so are their allies. And we’re not going to back down.”
Image courtesy of Palácio do Planalto @ Flickr