By Aaron Miller-
Indigenous people in Brazil have a legal task in reversing the stance of newly installed president, Jair Bolsonaro.
Bolsonaro brazenly targeted Brazil’s indigenous groups, descendants of slaves and the LGBT community with executive orders in the first hours of his administration, courting controversy with no fear following his election victory. The far-right leader vowed to shake up many of the practices of the Latin American country, in preservation of Christian principles. His critics see nothing Christian about his piercing political move to rid indigenous people of a land they historically claim as theirs, but the battle lines have been drawn by a president on a mission to redesign Brazil according to his vision for the country.
His pick on LGBT groups will also cause the kind of stir that would lead to campaigns against his administration from many groups, but his Christian beliefs is his fall back point in his direct and unapologetic overhaul of Brazil. He does not believe LGBT should have any rights, but will be forced by the press to explain his reasons. Already, he has restricted the press in his first few days in office. The Brazilian Press Association has already criticised restrictions on journalists at Bolsonaro’s inauguration. Reporters had to arrive seven hours before the events began and were forbidden to move freely in Congress and the presidential palace. Food was seized and access to bathrooms and water was limited.
Bolsonaro, a fan of U.S president Trump, said in an interview with SBT network that he was interested in estab;ishing a U.S base in Brazil. He expressed concerns with Russia’s closeness with Venezuela. In December, the two countries held a joint training mission in Venezuela that was criticised by U.S Secretary of State Mike “My approximation with the United States is economic, but it could also be warlike,” said Bolsonaro, adding the base would be “symbolic” since American military power can reach any part of the globe.
“Depending on what might happen in the world, who knows if we might have to talk about it (a U.S. base) in the future,” the former Brazilian army captain said.
Bolsonaro has already signed a provisional measure to pull apart FUNAI, Brazil’s bureau of indigenous affairs.
The Justice Ministry formerly oversaw the handling of new indigenous lands, but this has now been transferred to Minister Tereza Cristina—a former lobby chief for the industry Unrecognised territories by the government are at greater risk, with their lands are now more likely to be handed over to agricultural and other industry interests. And when indigenous people are evicted from their lands, this doesn’t go down peacefully.
“The theft of indigenous people’s lands could mean genocide and the complete wipeout of tribes,” said Sarah Shenker, a senior researcher at Survival International who’s worked with Brazilian tribes, to Earther.
A legal petition against Bolsonaro’s provisional measure was launched on Thursday, and the drama will son be played out in a court that would be the centre of global attention when the time comes.
Legal experts say the 1988 constitution, grants exclusive use of indigenous land to indigenous peoples, meaning that unless a new law is established to override the old, the new president could be facing early defeat and embarrassment. Some sources in Brazil say Bolsonaro will move to influence a change in the law before any legal challenge is processed, that will have to be done quickly, if possible and practical.
Areas set aside for “Quilombolas,” – descendants of former slaves – are expected to be affected.
Bolsonaro, a former army captain and longtime congressman, said during his presidential campaign that he would stop making what he calls concessions to native Brazilians and Quilombolas.
“Less than one million people live in those places isolated from the real Brazil,” he tweeted Wednesday. “They are explored and manipulated by nonprofits. Together we will integrate those citizens and give value to all Brazilians.”
The Justice Ministry previously handled demarcation of indigenous lands through the FUNAI agency, which also oversees other initiatives for indigenous groups such as health care, housing and language preservation. Bolsonaro’s order is raising uncertainties about FUNAI by shifting it to a new ministry for family, women and human rights that is headed by an ultraconservative evangelical pastor.
The far-right leader said last year that he also wants to annul land demarcation decisions made by previous administrations, but legal experts say recent Brazilian Supreme Court rulings could block such move.
New Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta also suggested on Wednesday that there will be spending cuts in health care for the indigenous.
“The human rights ministry discussed our concerns at a body called secretariat of promotion and defence of human rights. That body just disappeared, just like that. We don’t see any signs there will be any other government infrastructure to handle LGBT issues,” she said.
The newspaper Folha de S.Paulo reported that Bolsonaro will later announce the closing of an agency within the Education Ministry that has been aimed at promoting diversity in public schools and universities.
Brazilian Press Association criticized restrictions on journalists at Bolsonaro’s inauguration. Reporters had to arrive seven hours before the events began and were forbidden to move freely in Congress and the presidential palace. Food was seized and access to bathrooms and water was limited.
“What was seen in different scenarios of Brasilia is incompatible with a democratic regime,” the association said in a statement. “Respect to the press is one of the main indicators of nations that consider themselves civilised.”.
Bolsonaro, a fan of U.S. President Donald Trump, met with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to discuss joint efforts regarding the leftist administrations in Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.
Pompeo told him that Trump is “very pleased with the relationship that our two countries are on the precipice of beginning to develop.”
“He’s also confident that it (the relationship between the U.S. and Brazil) will benefit the world and the set of shared values that we believe we can together advance,” Pompeo said before leaving Brasilia for Colombia.