BRASILIA: Leftist former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva promised Brazil’s indigenous people on Tuesday (April 12) that he would stop illegal mining on their reserves and recognize their land claims if he wins the October presidential election.
Lula visited a protest camp in Brasilia where several thousand members of 200 tribes have gathered to oppose far-right President Jair Bolsonaro’s plans to allow commercial farming, mining and oil exploration on their land.
“Everything this government has decreed against indigenous peoples must be repealed immediately,” said Lula, who served as president for two terms from 2003 to 2010.
“No one did more for indigenous people than our Workers’ Party governments, and now everything has been dismantled by this unscrupulous government,” Lula told a cheering crowd.
Bolsonaro trails Lula in the first polls before the October 2 elections. The president vowed in 2018 not to recognize a single inch of indigenous reserve land, earning him the backing of Brazil’s powerful farm lobby.
Indigenous leaders have called on Lula to rebuild the government’s indigenous affairs agency, Funai, which had been cut in funding and staff under Bolsonaro.
“Lula, we are unprotected. Our rights are being trampled on,” said Joenia Wapichana, the country’s only indigenous representative in Congress.
He said that illegal occupations of protected indigenous lands are being legalized and wild miners are invading reserves where they destroy forests and pollute rivers.
Illegal mining grew 46 percent in the Yanomami reserve last year as high gold prices and Bolsonaro’s tacit support triggered a gold rush that brought disease, violence and rights abuses, according to a report published on Monday. monday.
The critical situation facing the tribes has led to a record number of more than 30 indigenous people running for Congress this year, said Sonia Guajajara, director of APIB, the main umbrella organization for Amazonian tribes.