Brazil: Bolsonaro threatens genocide —openly

Brazil's far-right president-elect Jair Bolsonaro campaigned on a plan to privatize vast swaths of the Amazon rainforest, turning it over to agribusiness and mining. In addition, he seeks to expand hydro-power and other energy mega-projects the region. Since his election in an Oct. 28 run-off vote, Bolsonaro's team has announced that his administration will merge the ministries of agriculture and the environment into a new "super ministry" to oversee the plan. Brazil now has some 720 indigenous reserves, ranging in size from a single hectare to nearly ten million hectares. Bolsonaro has said he wants to put all of those lands—13% of Brazil's territory—on the auction block. "Minorities have to adapt to the majority, or simply disappear," he said on the campaign trail, adding that under his administration, "not one square centimeter" of Brazil will be reserved for the country's indigenous peoples.

It seems clear that Bolsonaro will be able to push through his legislative agenda with the support of the three right-wing blocs in the National Congress, known as the Bancadas do Boi, do Bíblia e da Bala—the blocs of Beef (ranching and agribusiness), Bible (religious conservatives) and Bullet (the military). In addition, new seats were won in the election for his own misleadingly named Social Liberal Party (PSL), which brings these interests together. (BBC News, AsiaTimes, Oct. 31; Al Jazeera, Oct. 29; CBC, Oct. 27; WaPo, Oct. 28)

Brazil's indigenous peoples in recent years have been pressing for further demarcation of their ancestral lands. Thousands of indigenous protesters clashed with police outside the congress building in Brasilia last April, in a national protest to demand titling of their territories. Indigenous peoples and their supporters say the new push to open forested lands to development has genocidal implications, as well as posing a grave threat to efforts to address global climate change.

Photo: Kayapo women in Brazilian Amazon, via FUNAI

  1. Brazil: mine to pay tribes over river contamination

    A Brazil appeals court ordered mining giant Vale to pay two indigenous tribes $26.8 million over river contamination that harmed public health. The Onca Puma nickel mine in Brazil's northern Para state, in operation for a decade, is blamed for contaminating the Catete river, which prosecutors said had a "severe" impact on the Xikrin and Kayapo tribes. (AFP)

  2. Brazil mining company reaches settlement over 2019 disaster

    Brazilian mining giant Vale Feb. 4 reached a settlement for damages caused by an iron ore waste dam rupture that killed at least 270 people. Several company officials are also charged with murder.

    The Vale dam burst in January 2019. Without warning, an inundation of toxic sludge buried the mining site’s cafeteria while hundreds of employees were having their lunch. The mining waste also polluted the nearby Paraopeba River and flooded homes downstream in the nearby town of Brumadinho.

    The catastrophe came just three years after Vale’s 2015 Mariana dam breach killed 19 people and contaminated 668 kilometers (415 miles) of the Doce River, a primary source for water and the area’s fishing industry.

    Investigations revealed that Vale officials were aware that sensors meant to detect breaches in the dam were not operational at the time of the disaster. Executives from German safety regulatory company TÜV SÜD, which managed the facility’s maintenance, knew nearly a year before the disaster that the dam was becoming unstable.

    Vale will pay the state of Minas Gerais 37.7 billion reais (USD 7 billion), but only 30 percent of this money will go toward environmental projects and the victims of the catastrophe. According to Joceli Andrioli, a member of the local Movement of People Affected by Dams that supports victims of failed mega-projects, this deal was made “behind closed doors, without the participation of those affected.” (Jurist)