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LATIN AMERICA | 10-04-2019 14:11

Indigenous groups warn of 'apocalypse' under Bolsonaro's policies

Brazilian president's prioritisation of agricultural land over indigenous rights worries native peoples in the Amazon.

The lives of native peoples in the Amazon are being threatened to a degree not seen in decades by the policies of Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro, an indigenous alliance warned Wednesday.

In a piece published in French daily Le Monde, 13 signatories said that since Bolsonaro's election "we are experiencing the first stages of an apocalypse, of which indigenous peoples are the first victims."

They warned in particular of Bolsonaro's pledges to allow more farming and logging in the Amazon, and to ease safeguards and grant more licenses for Brazil's huge mining industry, and build more dams.

The populist leader has also vowed to "integrate" the estimated 800,000 native people of Brazil, in part with new roads and rail lines through the Amazon and clearing more areas for agriculture.

Bolsonaro has already stripped the FUNAI indigenous affairs agency of the power to define native land, giving that power instead to the agriculture ministry.

Critics say taken together, his policies would constitute a land-grab and a drastic reduction of the hard-earned rights of native tribes.

"Even though the Amazon is vital for humanity, and indigenous peoples are its primary defenders, he is trying to cut us off from our international supporters by threatening to expel allied organisations on the pretext they interfere in the country's sovereignty," the Alliance of Indigenous Peoples said.

There are 426 demarcated territories in Brazil, established in the 1980s for the exclusive use of their indigenous inhabitants, and access by outsiders is strictly regulated.

"We are categorically opposed to any deforestation, any soybean plantations or any cattle raising on indigenous lands," the alliance said. 

It also called on the European Union to put pressure on Bolsonaro by refusing to import Brazil's agricultural products unless they are guaranteed not to have come from native lands or violated indigenous people's rights.

- TIMES/AFP

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