Re­gional News Brazil’s Bol­sonaro lumps na­tive tribes with women in new min­istry

Stabroek News - - REGIONAL NEWS -

BRASILIA, (Reuters) - Brazil’s rightwing Pres­i­dent-elect Jair Bol­sonaro named a pro-life evan­gel­i­cal pas­tor yes­ter­day to head a new min­istry of Women, Fam­ily and Hu­man Rights that will also take over the agency look­ing af­ter the coun­try’s 850,000 in­dige­nous peo­ple.

Da­mares Alves, a lawyer, preacher and con­gres­sional aide, is a staunch op­po­nent of le­gal­iz­ing abor­tion, which is al­lowed only in cases of rape, anen­cephaly or when the mother’s life is in dan­ger.

She is the se­cond woman named to the in­com­ing pres­i­dent’s 22-mem­ber cab­i­net, fu­ture chief of staff Onyx Loren­zoni said.

Bol­sonaro won the Oc­to­ber elec­tion on a law-and-or­der plat­form, vow­ing to re­store Chris­tian fam­ily val­ues in a so­ci­ety where he be­lieves left­ist par­ties went too far in in­tro­duc­ing sex­ual ed­u­ca­tion in schools and ad­vanc­ing LGBT rights.

While the ap­point­ment of a so­cial con­ser­va­tive was ex­pected in the rights port­fo­lio, plac­ing the in­dige­nous af­fairs foun­da­tion Fu­nai un­der its guard was a sur­prise move.

Bol­sonaro says he will deny new land claims by in­dige­nous tribes and fa­vors open­ing their land to com­mer­cial min­ing and farm­ing. He ar­gues they have a right to charge roy­al­ties to im­prove their qual­ity of life and to in­te­grate with the rest of Brazil, com­par­ing them to an­i­mals trapped in a zoo.

He re­cently con­sid­ered put­ting Fu­nai un­der the agri­cul­ture min­istry, which would give farm­ers who backed his elec­tion an up­per hand in land con­flicts, but in­stead bun­dled them into the new rights min­istry.

Ear­lier on Thurs­day, as his tran­si­tion team de­cided on the new min­istry, in­dige­nous lead­ers in na­tive head­dresses de­liv­ered a let­ter ask­ing Bol­sonaro to keep Fu­nai as part of the Jus­tice Min­istry.

Speak­ing to re­porters af­ter she was ap­pointed, Alves said some in­dige­nous land claims were ques­tion­able.

“Defin­ing land bound­aries for in­dige­nous land is a del­i­cate and con­tro­ver­sial is­sue that we will have dis­cuss,” she said.

Some 517,000 na­tives, about two-thirds of Brazil’s in­dige­nous pop­u­la­tion, live on reser­va­tions that rep­re­sent 12.5 per­cent of the coun­try’s ter­ri­tory.

En­vi­ron­men­tal­ists say the in­dige­nous peo­ple on the reser­va­tions are the best guardians of Brazil’s trop­i­cal forests and their bio­di­ver­sity. The is­sue has gained more im­por­tance as the de­struc­tion of Brazil’s Ama­zon hit its high­est level in a decade, the gov­ern­ment said last month.

That de­struc­tion is pri­mar­ily caused by il­le­gal log­ging, ranch­ing and farm­ing, of­fi­cials say. An­thro­pol­o­gists and rights groups say al­low­ing min­ing com­pa­nies into reser­va­tions would also de­stroy na­tive cul­tures.

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