Following an election campaign marked by an anti-indigenous assimilationist speech on the first day of his term, current President Jair Bolsonaro edited Provisional Presidential Decree No. 870/2019, which, among other offensives, cut one of the oldest bodies of the Brazilian government, the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI), transferring the demarcation of indigenous and Quilombola lands to Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Food Supply (MAPA), a portfolio historically led by the agribusiness lobby.
The Ministry of Agriculture is headed by farmer Tereza Cristina, one of the largest agribusiness political leaders in Brazil, known as the "poisonous muse." This year alone, she released 239 pesticides in the face of MAPA, 26% of them are banned in the European Union due to the risks to human health and the environment.
One of the consequences of this anti-environmental policy is precisely the considerable jump of the slash-and-burn in Brazil. It has spiked by 82% more compared to the same period last year, the highest and also the most significant number on record in 7 years in the country, according to the Programa Queimadas from the National Institute for Space Research (INPE)
Photo: Katie Maehler / Mídia NINJA
The correlation between deforestation, which increased only this year by 63% (INPE), and fire are intrinsic. The ten towns of the Amazon region that reported the most slash-and-burn also had 43% of deforestation detected by July. The records are higher in the states of Acre, Amazonas, Mato Grosso, Rondônia, and Roraima, where a significant population of our people resides. It is also in this region that most of the last isolated peoples in Brazil live, as reported by COIAB - The Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon (COIAB) in a recently published notation.
All of these crimes are unpunished and are incited on a daily basis by authorities such as the President of Brazil, the Ministry of the Environment, or Governors of states like Acre, who publicly stated that if any farmer was fined for environmental crime, he could appeal it with him, " for it is he who rules there now.”
Photo: Mídia NINJA
We know that indigenous territories are the most preserved in the world. In the Brazilian Amazon, communities protect 27% of the forest; forest reserves provide 5.2 billion tons of water per day.
The United Nations (UN) report on climate change has, for the first time cited the strengthening of indigenous peoples 'and local communities' land rights as a solution to the climate crisis. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Climate Change and Land, released in early August, recognizes that our traditional knowledge and sustainable management of our lands and forests is critical to reducing global emissions and removing CO2 from the atmosphere.
Brazil has suffered the dismantling of FUNAI and environmental policies and inspections through the demoralization and dismantling of IBAMA, ICMBio, and INPE. Also, there are constant struggles with attempted criminalization on top of recurring lies against civil society organizations. Now, the indigenous peoples are forced to guard their own territories at their own risk.
We recently saw the case of the Munduruku people who expelled loggers and palm growers from their territories in the Sawré Muybu Indigenous Territory (southwestern Pará). The same happens in the north of Mato Grosso and many other regions of the Amazon.
In response to so many threats, from August 9 to 14, 2019, Brazil's Indigenous People Articulation (APIB) held the Indigenous Women's March in Brasilia, bringing together 2,500 women from over 130 different indigenous peoples, representing every region of Brazil. This initiative was the first of indigenous women carried out by the Brazil Indigenous Peoples Articulation at a national level.
The peoples faced with the worsening scenario are being pushed into a war that has no end in sight. They have an increasing need for the solidarity of national and international public opinion. The indigenous peoples lack the support of Brazilian institutions and international courts. That support is what they require to guarantee Justice and protection for themselves in Brazil; what was lacking in the recent case of the assassination of chief Emirá Wajãpi, in Amapá.
Photo: Leo Otero / Cobertura Colaborativa Marcha das Mulheres Indígenas
The attacks also come from the corporate field, which has accumulated major environmental disasters, such as the latest mining tragedies in Minas Gerais. These directly affected the populations living near large mining companies, such as the Krenak and Pataxó peoples, who relied on the Rio Doce and the Parauapeba River as essential ecosystems for their survival – some of them had to evacuate their habitat. The government, for its part, has not yet taken all reasonable measures to repair those affected by the major disasters, and is not being responsible and demanding justice from the corporations and multinationals that are in charge of the mining companies.