Last Saturday, December 7, two indigenous Guajajara men were shot to death and two others injured. The shots were fired by occupants of a vehicle on the side of a road through Cana Brava Indigenous Land. This attack comes just over a month after the murder of Paulo Paulino Guajajara, Guardian of the Amazon, who was killed for protecting the forest.
The violence that plagues indigenous lands in Maranhão is responsible and guilty. Invasions and attacks against indigenous people throughout the country are encouraged by genocidal state policy, which dismantles the public services that should protect them and encourages violence against them through rhetoric and anti-indigenous policies. This is the worst time for indigenous peoples since the military dictatorship.
Since the beginning of his election campaign, President Jair Bolsonaro has been strongly attacking the rights of indigenous peoples. He wants to undermine their autonomy, forcibly integrate them and steal indigenous lands. It is trying to dismantle FUNAI, the National Indian Foundation, and make it easier for agribusiness and extractive industries to exploit indigenous land resources.
On his first day as president, Bolsonaro removed FUNAI from the Ministry of Justice and placed it under the responsibility of the newly created Ministry of Women, Family and Human Rights, [headed by] Minister Damares Alves, an evangelical pastor who has a history of supporting anti-indigenous policies. He further removed the responsibility of demarcating FUNAI indigenous lands to place it in the Ministry of Agriculture. Fortunately, the House and Senate a few months later rejected both maneuvers.
The Bolsonaro government`s strategy to weaken FUNAI has taken a new form: leadership, including the Foundation`s presidency, is now filled with military and pro-agribusiness-friendly people. The final consequences of this project were the orientation of not allowing the agency`s employees to make work visits to indigenous lands not yet approved and the emptying of the Javari Valley protection base. Both consequences are extremely serious as they threaten numerous indigenous peoples, including isolated indigenous peoples, the most vulnerable peoples on the planet.
The threat to the lives of indigenous peoples, however, also presents itself in the anti-indigenous speech of the President and members of the government. Constant comparisons of indigenous people with animals from zoos and prehistoric peoples are just a few. As well as the mention that these peoples would be a barrier to the country`s development while, in fact, they are a barrier to the protection of the environment. The verbal incentive to exploit land for illegal mining has an impact, as well as the dismantling of environmental protection policies that make even more room for invasions of indigenous lands and environmental protection areas.
In lamenting the murder of Raimundo Guajajara and Firmino Guajajara last Saturday, Sonia Guajajara denounced: “We are drifting without the protection of the Brazilian state, whose constitutional role is being neglected by current authorities. The federal government is an outlaw government, criminal in its political practice, and operates in a genocidal manner to expel us from our territories, massacring our culture, bleeding our roots.”
It`s time to make indigenous voices echo in the four corners of the world. Speak out and act in solidarity with the indigenous peoples of Brazil. They are resisting attacks by the Bolsonaro government. We cannot give up until indigenous peoples are respected as contemporary societies, have their lands protected, and are free to determine their own future.
Original article (in Portuguese)
Photo: APIB Delegation Delivers `Racist of the Year` Award to President Bolsonaro at the Brazilian Embassy in London, November 2019. Source: Rosa Gauditano / Survival International.