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SOURCE: Amazon Watch

DATE: February 20, 2019

SNIP: Emboldened by the institutional assault upon indigenous rights being waged by the regime of Jair Bolsonaro, rural mafias are organizing an unprecedented wave of land invasions and attacks on native territories and communities. As Brazil’s indigenous agency FUNAI is systematically dismantled, with its mandate to title and monitor indigenous lands handed to agribusiness interests and religious zealots, vast Amazonian forests are becoming increasingly vulnerable to exploitation.

According to a report by the Brazilian NGO Repórter Brasil, there are currently fourteen titled indigenous territories under attack. Indigenous leaders and their allies speak of a general abandonment of state protections over indigenous lands, as Bolsonaro’s dangerous rhetoric emboldens a range of criminal forces – from illegal loggers and miners to land grabbers and speculators – to act with apparent impunity.

Karipuna indigenous territory in the Amazonian state of Rondônia has seen a spike in illegal logging of ancient hardwoods. “These invasions will get worse,” said Adriano Karipuna, a local indigenous leader who has suffered threats from the loggers. “Bolsonaro preaches that [indigenous people] do not need land, that they do not work, and that we are like animals in a zoo. Those who were already wicked enough to [invade our lands] are now receiving [the president’s] support. These people now have no fear of coming onto our lands.”

Aside from Karipuna lands, those of the Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau and Karitiana in Rondônia also face invasions, as do the territories of the Guajajara and Ka’apor in Maranhão and the Arara and Xicrín of Pará, to cite a few flashpoints in the Amazon. The Pankararu of Pernambuco also find their territory under siege, while farmers brazenly occupy the lands of the Kadiweu people of Mato Grosso do Sul.

Alessandra also denounced the presence of illegal miners surrounding Munduruku territory, operating and poisoning waterways without consequence. What were already serious problems under previous administrations have become entrenched under Bolsonaro, whose rule promises to aggravate lawlessness and violence in the Brazilian Amazon.

Intensifying land disputes are at the core of these mounting conflicts, as powerful actors vie for the vast, preserved forests stewarded by Brazil’s indigenous peoples. According to Brazil’s Socio-Environmental Institute (ISA), indigenous territories have endured nearly 450 invasions or threats by land grabbers, loggers, miners, or squatters in recent years. Nearly 220 threats to indigenous communities emanate from farmers or ranchers, while an additional 207 are attributed to loggers, according to ISA.

Meanwhile, there was a 62% spike in land invasions and plundering of natural resources in indigenous territories between 2016 and 2017, according to Brazil’s Indigenous Missionary Council. These statistics provide a sense of the grim reality facing Brazil’s indigenous communities today, and may represent merely the tip of the iceberg.