Former Brazil leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva vowed Tuesday to roll back current President Jair Bolsonaro's policies on indigenous people if elected, as he branded his rival a "fascist" aligned with "those who want to kill our forests."
Speaking at a protest by thousands of indigenous people who are camping out in the capital, Brasilia, to protest the far-right leader's policies, Lula drew loud cheers with a promise to create a "ministry of indigenous affairs" if he wins Brazil's October presidential elections.
"And one of you will have to run it, not a white person like me," he said, wearing a beaded necklace with a colourful macaw emblem.
If elected for a new term, he said, "we'll need to hold a 'revocation day,' where everything [Bolsonaro] decreed to hinder [indigenous rights] will be immediately revoked. We can't allow everything you've fought for to be taken from you by decree and handed over to those who want to kill our forests and wildlife."
Lula, who served as Brazil's president from 2003 to 2010, last week named centrist politician Geraldo Alckmin as his vice-presidential running mate.
The ex-president is representing the Workers' Party (PT) in alliance with the Socialist Party which Alckmin, 69, recently joined.
Lula, a leftist former steelworker, is widely projected to beat Bolsonaro in the upcoming presidential election in October.
Bolsonaro has drawn protests from indigenous groups and environmentalists for pushing legislation that would dramatically reduce the creation of new indigenous reservations and open up existing ones to mining.
A series of studies have shown protecting indigenous lands is one of the best ways to preserve forests, vital resources in the race to curb climate change.
Under Bolsonaro, who took office in 2019 with solid backing from Brazil's powerful agribusiness sector, deforestation has surged in the crucial Amazon rainforest, home to the majority of the country's 900,000 indigenous people.
There were chants of "Get out, Bolsonaro!" as Lula arrived to speak at the indigenous camp, which opened last week just up the road from the presidential palace and Congress.