US NewsThe Amazon Tribes Battling Brazil's Bolsonaro

17:05  22 april  2019
17:05  22 april  2019 Source:   ozy.com

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President Jair Bolsonaro is moving aggressively to open up the Amazon rainforest to commercial development, posing an existential threat to the tribes Brazil ’ s president is keeping his promises about expanding development in the Amazon . And for many of the Indigenous people who live there

“ Brazil now has a president who cares about those who were here before the arrival of the Portuguese in 1500,” claimed Bolsonaro , whose Italian forefathers migrated to Brazil in the Thousands of miles away in the Amazon few descendants of Brazil ’ s original inhabitants are convinced by such claims.

The Amazon Tribes Battling Brazil's Bolsonaro © Provided by Ozy Media, Inc. Gettyimages 493336661

The Kayapó war cry resounds deep in the Amazon, the world’s largest rainforest. Four dozen warriors, their headdresses made of yellow and red macaw feathers, stand in the village clearing, carrying shotguns and war clubs. Warrior women, the crowns of their heads shaved, sing high-pitched war cries and wave machetes in the air.

Kruwyt, the elderly male chief in the A’Ukre village, then leads them in the pry’ongrere— a battle dance for “chasing after the enemy.” Their declared enemy is none other than Brazil’s new president, Jair Bolsonaro. The right-wing former captain, who took office in January, has slammed what he sees as the excessive legal protection afforded to Brazil’s 305 ethnic groups and the “enormity” of their constitutionally mandated land reserves.

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“We are ready to go to war against any misstep from President Bolsonaro,” Kruwyt tells the group, their bodies patterned with black fruit dye, a sign of war. “He wants to reduce our land, he wants to end our traditions, and we are warriors defending our rainforest, our river, our culture.”

The Amazon Tribes Battling Brazil's Bolsonaro Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro delivers a speech, during the appointment ceremony of his new Education Minister Abraham Weintraub at Planalto Palace in Brasilia, on April 9, 2019. - Weintraub replaces Ricardo Velez, who was fired after three months of management marked by controversy and setbacks. (Photo by EVARISTO SA / AFP) (Photo credit should read EVARISTO SA/AFP/Getty Images)

The 7.9 million acres of Kayapó land in the Xingú River Basin, in the heart of Brazil, form part of one of the largest mosaics of contiguous indigenous lands in the country. Over the past several hundred years, the Kayapó have fought Portuguese colonizers and their tribal neighbors as well as Brazilian loggers and gold diggers. Now they are standing up to a government that is keen to open indigenous lands to commercial activity.

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Brazil ' s leader has ordered the armed forces to fight forest fires in the Amazon , amid international outrage over rising deforestation. In a televised address to the nation on Friday, Mr Bolsonaro said forest fires "exist in the whole world" and "cannot serve as a pretext for possible international sanctions".

As Brazil struggles through a prolonged economic stagnation, the allure of the Amazon has grown, even as scientists warn that development will accelerate rising On the day after his inauguration, Mr Bolsonaro decried the fact that 15 per cent of Brazil ’ s territory is reserved for indigenous tribes .

The struggle of indigenous peoples to maintain their way of life, famously documented by French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, is not new. But Bolsonaro has made access to this land a central part of his development policy, triggering an outcry at home and abroad. Earlier this month, the American Museum of Natural History scrapped an event to honor the president, citing concern about the Amazon rainforest.

In recent weeks, Bolsonaro attacked what he called “an industry of demarcation of indigenous lands” that “makes any development project in the Amazon unviable.” The president, who prides himself on his relationship with U.S. President Donald Trump, has added he would like to explore the rainforest for riches “in partnership” with the U.S. Shortly after taking office, he stripped Brazil’s indigenous agency of its authority in demarcating indigenous lands, transferring it to the Agriculture Ministry, which critics say is dominated by agribusiness interests.

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The Amazon Tribes Battling Brazil's Bolsonaro Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro (L) receives a US soccer jersey from US President Donald Trump before a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House March 19, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Federal prosecutors warn that the measure is illegal, as the Brazilian constitution guarantees ethnic groups’ rights to their ancestral lands. “Today, we are seeing the biggest attack on our rights in Brazilian history,” says Joênia Wapichana, a lawyer and indigenous lawmaker. “To subvert indigenous policy to agricultural interests is absurd.” Bolsonaro’s critics accuse him of pandering to the conservative farming constituency that brought him to power. Brazil is one of the world’s largest soy producers and environmentalists see the crop as a driver of deforestation.

The heart of the matter, indigenous chiefs, anthropologists and environmentalists say, is access to land. Indeed, 12.5 percent of Brazil’s vast territory — an area the size of Venezuela — is home to more than half a million indigenous people, mainly in the Amazon rainforest, according to IBGE, the national statistics institute. Overall, indigenous people make up less than 1 percent of Brazil’s 210 million population. “This is our land, we were here before the kubên,” says Pat-i, A’Ukre’s young chief-in-waiting, referring to White people. “If we let them in they will destroy the rainforest and everything in it under the excuse we need ‘their’ development,” he adds.

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The Amazon Tribes Battling Brazil's Bolsonaro © 2017 Getty Images ABUNA, BRAZIL - JUNE 25: Dead trees stand in a recently deforested section of the Amazon rainforest on June 25, 2017 near Abuna, Rondonia state, Brazil. Deforestation, caused by human activity, is increasing in the Brazilian Amazon and rose 29 percent between August 2015 and July 2016. According to the National Institute for Space Research, close to two million acres of forest were destroyed during this timeframe amidst a hard hitting recession in the country. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, 'Deforestation causes climate change on a global scale, and is responsible for about 15 percent of the worlds greenhouse gas emissions.' (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Such development has not helped other Kayapó villages, he says, referring to nearby settlements that have fallen into the hands of illegal gold miners and been wrecked by deforestation, drinking and prostitution. There are frequent conflicts with miners, loggers and ranchers, says the Indigenous Missionary Council, an advocacy group.

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Opening indigenous lands for development will ease such tensions by improving living standards, the government believes. “Are the Indians of Brazil all fine? They live in a poverty that is indigent. A country like ours, where the Indians have some 13 percent of the national territory and leave them in the poverty that they live? There’s something wrong,” Agriculture Minister Tereza Cristina Corrêa says.

The Amazon Tribes Battling Brazil's Bolsonaro Overview of a deforested area in the border of Xingu river, 140 Km from Anapu city in the Amazon rain forest, northern Brazil, 19 February 2005. The murder of Dorothy Stang, 74, a US-born missionary who spent decades working with the poor in Para state, has forced authorities to take action against lawlessness in the Amazon. AFP PHOTO/ANTONIO SCORZA / AFP PHOTO / ANTONIO SCORZA (Photo credit should read ANTONIO SCORZA/AFP/Getty Images) The roughly 350 people in A’Ukre hunt wild boars for food and harvest Brazil nuts for sale. They have electricity from generators and clean water from a well. While there is a school in the village, literacy rates are lower in indigenous communities than in other parts of Brazil, IBGE says, and child mortality rates are higher, a 2017 study shows. The Kayapó would like access to better health care, but otherwise, says Pat-i, “I don’t think we are poor. In the cities, the White man lives with money. Here, we don’t; we farm, we hunt, we fish, we dance. With all of that, we are rich.” Nearby, children swim in the river draped in yellow butterflies.

“This is their land, they owe nothing to anybody,” adds Glenn Shepard, an anthropologist and ethnobotanist with the Emílio Goeldi Museum in Belém who studies the Kayapó. Crucially, he says, “without them holding the fort, deforestation would advance rapidly.”

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Indigenous lands act as “gigantic barriers to the encroachment of deforestation,” says a spokesperson for IPAM, a research institute. Environmentalists warn that any attempt by the government to reduce the size of conservation reserves, ease environmental licensing and weaken indigenous rights would pose further threats to the Amazon. Already in the first two months of 2019, almost 21,000 acres of rainforest were cut down in the Xingú River Basin. This represents a 54 percent spike from the same period last year, says the Socio-Environmental Institute, an advocacy and research group, amid pressure from farmers and land grabbers.

For the Kayapó, the fate of the rainforest is inextricably linked with their own survival. “The jungle is the source of life,” says Panhba, a young female warrior. “If they cut down the trees now, there won’t be air or nuts or fruits or animals left for my children and grandchildren.”

Amid the cries of howler monkeys in the forest canopy, Ngreikamôrô, the A’Ukre’s female chief, puts it more forcefully. If the president opens up indigenous lands and does not stop “speaking ill” of indigenous people, she says she will go to Brasília to meet him and there she will put her machete flat against his cheek. “I will do that to defend our river, to defend our rainforest,” she says. Then “I will cut his mouth off.”

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