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Fri Nov 2, 2018, 01:27 AM

Bolsonaro's election is catastrophic news for Brazil's indigenous tribes

Fiona Watson
During his campaign, he pledged to take away their territory. His victory will embolden the brutal mining and logging gangs

Wed 31 Oct 2018 10.25 EDT

Brazil has just elected as its president a far-right nationalist with authoritarian tendencies and fascist inclinations. The country’s 900,000-strong indigenous people are among the many minority groups Jair Bolsonaro has frequently targeted with vitriolic hostility. “It’s a shame that the Brazilian cavalry wasn’t as efficient as the Americans, who exterminated their Indians,” he once said. If he enacts his campaign promises, the first peoples of Brazil face catastrophe; in some cases, genocide.

There are around 100 uncontacted tribes in Brazil, more than anywhere else on earth, and all are in peril unless their land is protected. Bolsonaro has threatened to close down FUNAI, the government’s indigenous affairs department, which is charged with protecting indigenous land. Already battling against budget cuts, if it disappears uncontacted peoples face annihilation.

Earlier this year, FUNAI released footage of a man known as the Last of his Tribe; a lone survivor of waves of genocidal attacks in the 1970s and 80s as loggers and ranchers bulldozed their way through the forest. These invaders murdered his entire family, his community and neighbouring communities. If the mechanisms to protect indigenous territories and prevent such atrocities, already woefully inadequate, are removed, this vital part of human diversity will be wiped out forever.

Bolsonaro thinks “Indians smell, are uneducated and don’t speak our language”, and that “the recognition of indigenous land is an obstacle to agribusiness”. He declares that he will reduce or abolish Amazonian indigenous reserves and has vowed on several occasions: “If I become president, there will not be one centimetre more of indigenous land.” He recently corrected himself, declaring that he meant not one millimetre.


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