In the Bolsonaro administration, started in 2019, the Amazon was on fire as never before, in a clear relation between the destruction of the forest and the expansion of agribusiness and mining, as well as the advance in the liberal plan of socioenvironmental destruction.
Bruno Pereira and Dom Phillips present!
The anthropologist Viveiros de Castro once said that death is a body event which we can only experience with someone else. Therefore, all we know consists of observing someone else’s death and attribute our meanings to it. It is precisely about that qualification of the fact the popular movements bring back the memory of Bruno and Dom, not as those who were victims of an isolated crime by an illegal fisherman, but as great fighters for indigenous rights and the preservation of the Amazon, whose legacy will live on.
Behind their deaths lies the violent genocide process implemented by the Bolsonaro administration of indigenous peoples in Brazil. At the beginning of his administration in 2019, the Amazon was on fire as never before and, according to indigenous organisations, there is a clear relation between the destruction of the forest and the expansion of agribusiness and mining. They even point out the connection with transnational companies and investors from the Global North and their complicity in the destruction of the forest and its peoples.
We must remember that in his speeches while running for president, Bolsonaro always defended a complete halt in the acknowledgement and granting of territory to indigenous and quilombola people. He said “Not a centimetre of indigenous land will be demarcated”. About the dismantling of the National Indigenous Foundation (FUNAI) – main body of the Brazilian state for protecting the rights of indigenous people – he added: “We will scythe it”. Going against the Latin American progressist wave of respect to plurality, diversity and cultural identity of the peoples, the government aims, in the words of the president, to “provide the means for the indigenous people to be like us”.
The institute of Socioeconomic Studies (INESC) and the Association of Workers and Indigenists of FUNAI (INA) presented, in June 2022, a study with details about the “New FUNAI” (expression used by the present president Marcelo Xavier), in which they conclude that that body has become anti-indigenist. Right at the beginning of the Bolsonaro administration, the government issued the Provisional Measure 870, transferring FUNAI from the Ministry of Justice (where it had been since 1991) to the (ultra conservative) Ministry of Woman, Family and Human Rights (MMFDH). In the same normative deliberation, he moved the identification and demarcation of Indigenous Lands to the Ministry of Agriculture, Ranching and Supplying (MAPA), the classical Ministry of agribusiness. Those, among other measures like the separation of indigenous health care, fragmented the indigenist policies, creating a scenario of management chaos which makes the execution of public policies unfeasible. It also brings more vulnerability to the original peoples of Brazil, in a blatant violation of their rights by the State, which has the constitutional obligation to grant them.
The change in competence for the demarcation of indigenous land remained until the decision of the Federal Supreme Court (STF), which determined in August 2019 that the Executive Power could not legislate over that matter. In spite of that decision, demarcation is still halted and waiting for the judgement of STF against the anti-indigenist thesis of the Time Frame. The result is the outburst of conflicts, attacks and brutal violence in Indigenous Lands which we see every day: invasions to the Yanomami land by miners; abuse and sexual violence as a weapon in this war; the case of the isolated peoples in Javari Valley (AM), threatened by miners, drug dealers and illegal fishing, unravelling the seriousness of the disrespect to peoples in voluntary isolation, as well as the situation of the Guarani and Kaiowá, who must deal with the real private militias of the agribusiness in Mato Grosso do Sul, which attack with the support of the local public powers.
According to the Missionary Indigenist Council (CIMI), there is an increase in the invasions and illegal exploitation in Indigenous Lands during the Bolsonaro administration: only in 2020, 263 cases were registered, which affects 201 Indigenous Lands, 145 peoples in 19 states, making it evident that the dismantling policy is structural. The Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB) calls that government action against the indigenous peoples a genocide, and they have gone as far as to denounce Jair Bolsonaro in the International Criminal Court.
FUNAI still has to deal with a huge budget cut of around 40%, which directly affects the actions of its servants for the continuity in the works of promotion and protection of indigenous rights. One of the policies adopted in the present administration is not offering service to indigenous people in areas where their ancestral land is being retaken, which implies leaving dozens of them completely at the margin of the State, without any action whatsoever to pacify the conflicts. Out of 39 Regional Coordinations of FUNAI, only two have servants who developed a career in the institution, having been nominated by the present administration: 17 military personnel, 3 military policemen, 2 servants of the Federal Police and 6 professionals without previous connection. These last ones have been a source of controversy, as many of them are religious indications made by the MMFDH. In the case of Javari Valley, the coordination of Bruno Pereira was substituted by a former evangelic pastor, in one of the most sensitive sectors of FUNAI, the one of isolated peoples, which demands a lot of experience to respect their self-determination.
The horror show happens every day. Like Bruno, who was exonerated from the position of coordination in 2020 due to his actions, there is a systematic persecution of servants by removing their attributions, changing places compulsorily; and an explosion of administrative lawsuits against servants, a series of criminal denounces made by FUNAI’s president himself. Some servants are accused of acting with “ideological issues”, of being connected to PT. The scandal is such that the urucum (achiote) paint on the walls of some FUNAI buildings was censored and covered with green and yellow paint. Or even when article 231 of the Federal Constitution becomes a “controversial topic”. One can say there is a real internal dictatorship to “let pass” agribusiness and mining. Once again, assimilationist discourses towards the indigenous peoples takes place, and they are regular targets of the discourse of “hindrance to development”.
There is a lot to be revealed in this period of terror in our history. Some recent news have pointed to a scheme of façade companies providing services to FUNAI through millionaire contracts. The seriousness of the actions which involve the institution’s presidency have led the National Council of Human Rights to request the president’s removal. There are no doubts left that this administration’s years will be an object of investigation, in a hard path still to be taken towards the reconstruction of memory and truth in this period.
Indigenous lives and land matter!
In 2022, Brazil celebrates two hundred years of its supposed independence, an invitation for all the left wing which is rooted in emancipation struggles against all forms of oppression, and engaged in building a Popular Project of country, to rethink the formation of the Brazilian Nation State. It has been marred by colonial and racist barbarism, especially against the indigenous peoples. In this scenario, the indigenous people have been resignifying the celebrations of April 19, the so-called “Day of the Indian”, not as a date which is devoid of historical struggles, but as a mark of resistance and mobilisation, which is expressed in the construction of Red Indigenous April.
It’s been 17 years since the construction of the Free Land Camp (ATL), which in its two last editions emerged as a strong scream of the indigenous peoples against the atrocities of the Bolsonaro Administration. Indigenous mobilisations have also been strong around the trial at STF about the Time Frame which, despite popular pressure, still does not have a set date. It is worth remembering the central role of the Xokleng people, who have been hunted and abused, and who resisted the massacre in 1904 in Santa Catarina, starting the lawsuit over which the infamous thesis of the time frame has been debated. They confronted the local oligarchs, who expelled them from their lands, insisting on the indigenous land rights. The pressure around that trial is so great that so far there has not been a context for the STF to decide on the issue.
Daniel Munduruku said that the indigenous peoples are a frontier which Brazilian capitalism has not been able to cross. Indeed, more than 500 years of colonisation have not been able to erase that collective identity, and now more than ever, that identity advances organisedly against bolsonarism, teaching, donning a war bonnet and praying, remembering al the dead, so we can fight that death policy and build the structures of a society centred around the production and reproduction of life.
* Column published on the newspaper Brasil de Fato on 5/07/2022 on this link: https://www.brasildefato.com.br/2022/07/05/a-amazonia-e-que-vai-derrubar-bolsonaro