Bolsonaro gave a medal to the indigenous people, angering the Brazilian tribal leaders

FILE PHOTO: Bolsonaro meets with supporters in Brasilia
FILE PHOTO: Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro wears a headdress during a meeting with indigenous supporters outside the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil August 12, 2021. REUTERS/Adriano Machado/

March 17, 2022

BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazilian tribal leaders and lawyers on Thursday criticized the handing of an indigenous rights award to President Jair Bolsonaro, calling it an “atrocity” that ignores his record of dismantling protections for indigenous people and the environment.

Attorney General Anderson Torres on Wednesday presented his boss Bolsonaro with the Medal of Indigenous Merit in “recognition of relevant service” in defending indigenous communities.

But indigenous Brazilians and environmental activists said it was inappropriate to give such an award to the former army captain who has questioned the veracity of global warming, obliterated environmental protection and pushed for allowing mining and oil exploration on indigenous reserves.

“It is an atrocity to honor a president who has shamelessly opposed indigenous people,” said Congresswoman Joonia Wapichana, the second indigenous representative to ever sit in Brazil’s legislature. She has introduced a bill to repeal the decree that awarded the medal to Bolsonaro.

A former recipient of the award said he would return it in protest.

Ethnographer Sydney Possuelo, a leading authority on isolated Amazon tribes who received the same award 35 years ago for his work establishing the Yanomami Reserve, said he no longer wanted the medal. In a statement, he said it had “lost all meaning”.

Leaders of Brazil’s 900,000 indigenous people say Bolsonaro has been the most damaging president in four decades of democracy to their rights and claims to their ancestral lands.

Backed by Brazil’s powerful agricultural lobby, Bolsonaro has long advocated greater development of the Amazon, the world’s largest tropical rainforest.

In office, he has ousted the state agency for tribal affairs, Funai, and said his government would not recognize any more tariffs on land claimed by tribes.

In 2020, he sparked outrage when he said, “The Indian has evolved and become more and more a human being like us,” adding that he wanted them to become more integrated into Brazilian society.

(Reporting by Anthony Boadle, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien) Bolsonaro gave a medal to the indigenous people, angering the Brazilian tribal leaders

Bobby Allyn

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