Brazil: Invasions and illegal exploitation of indigenous lands tripled under Bolsonaro, advocacy group says

“This government favors the exploitation and private appropriation of Indigenous territories,” the council said.

In 2021, 305 such incidents occurred in 22 Brazilian states, compared to only 109 cases in 2018, reported CIMI, a Christian organization that advocates for the rights of indigenous peoples in Brazil.

CIMI said invasions of indigenous lands have been on the rise since 2016, but increased under Bolsonaro’s government.

“In addition to the increase in the number of cases and lands affected by the illegal activities of miners, loggers, hunters, fishermen and land grabbers, among others, the occupiers have intensified their presence and the brutality of their actions in indigenous territories,” the council said. , accusing Bolsonaro of loosening protections.

The CIMI report said one example is a Bolsonaro-era regulation known as “Normative Instruction 9,” which made it easier for private landowners to obtain property certificates on lands that used to be unlimited. The regulation states that landowners can register property on any land that is not officially demarcated as indigenous territory. But there are parts of the territory that are in the middle of a long process to be officially identified as indigenous land, where private landowners have laid claim.

“Normative Instruction 09, in essence, aims to legitimize and allow the issuance of property titles for occupiers of indigenous lands,” said the CIMI report.

The data shows that under the leadership of Jair Bolsonaro, the destruction of the world's largest rainforest has deepened.
Bolsonaro has long argued that he is working to protect Brazil’s natural resources. In May, he signed an environmental protection decree to raise fines for illegal logging, fishing, burning, hunting, and deforestation. And during his leadership, Brazil’s National Indian Foundation (FUNAI) — a government agency that oversees policies related to indigenous communities — invested $16 million in monitoring indigenous lands to combat illegal activity there.

However, Bolsonaro also called for indigenous lands to be developed, and said that the natural resources they contain should be used for the benefit of the country’s economy and indigenous groups.

Brazil's indigenous groups are protesting a bill that would allow commercial mining on their land

According to the CIMI report, this set of actions — speech, norms and intentions to change the constitution through a series of bills — gave the occupiers the confidence to advance their illegal actions in native lands.

“Illegal mining sites (garimpos) have now developed extensive infrastructure, raiders have increased the deforestation of forest areas to open pastures and plant monocultures, and hunters, fishermen and loggers have intensified their incursions into the territories,” the report added.

“Indigenous people cannot continue to be poor in a rich land,” Bolsonaro said in April 2019, estimating that their protected lands have “trillions of reais underground.”

Data from the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) show that under his presidency, the destruction of the largest rainforest in the world has deepened, setting a new record in deforestation of the Amazon in the first half of 2022.
These women are fighting for their native land and the survival of the Amazon

According to data from the INPE satellite, 3,750 square kilometers (1,448 square miles) were deforested between January 1 and June 24 — the largest area since 2016, when the institute began this type of monitoring.

In response to CNN, the Environmental Ministry pointed to INPE data showing that deforestation on indigenous lands decreased by 26.8% between 2019 and 2021. While accurate, these numbers ignore data from 2018, the year before Bolsonaro took office. INPE data show that between 2018 and 2019, deforestation almost doubled in both of these territories.

According to the CIMI report, the indigenous communities in Brazil most affected by illegal activities on protected lands are the Yanomami, Munduruku, Pataxó, Muras, Uru-eu-wau-waus, Karipuna, Chiquitanos, and Kadiwéus.

“We are not fighting over other people’s property. We just want what is traditionally ours,” said Alenir Aquines Ximendes, from the Kaiowá people, in the CIMI report.

“The violence will continue, but we will fight, fight, pray and sing,” added Alenir.