The Brazilian president, the ultra-rightist leader Jair Bolsonaro, signed on Wednesday a bill that allows mining and electric power generation in indigenous reserves, a promise since he took office a year ago and is rejected by Indians and environmentalists .
The bill, which must be sent this week to vote in Congress, where it will have to be approved by the plenary sessions of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies before it can be sanctioned, was signed by the head of state in a public act in which he commemorated the first 400 days of his Government.
The Presidency explained that mining and hydroelectric construction in the reserves are provided for in article 231 of the 1988 Constitution, which until now has not been regulated.
REGULATION FOR MINING
The proposal, according to the Presidency, establishes the “specific conditions” that will be necessary to regulate the exploration and exploitation of mineral resources – including garimpo (artisanal mining) – of oil and gas, as well as the generation of hydroelectric energy, in reserves natives.
The project also allows the Indians themselves to economically exploit their lands through activities such as agriculture, livestock and tourism, which is currently vetoed in the reserves, which are territories owned by the State but delimited for the usufruct of the ancestral peoples that occupied them.
According to the Presidency, the bill was drafted with the intention of prestige of the autonomy and freedom of choice of indigenous peoples, who will have to be consulted on the different projects and may dispose of their land more autonomously.
“This autonomy and freedom of indigenous peoples is also guaranteed when the bill determines the entry of garimpeiros that are not Indians to the reserves since they have the approval of the Indians,” according to the Presidency.
In addition to the authorization of the owners of the reserves, mining projects on indigenous lands will depend on the approval of Congress and provide for the payment of compensation to the Indians who are affected by the restriction to the usufruct of their lands.
DREAM OF BOLSONARO AND NIGHTMARE FOR ECOLOGISTS
At the ceremony, the ultra-rightist leader referred to the proposal as “a dream” but admitted that he will suffer strong resistance in Congress and will face the lobbying of non-governmental organizations and environmental groups.
“I hope that dream will come true with the votes of parliamentarians. The Indian is a human being exactly like us. He has a heart, he has a feeling, he has a soul, he has desires, he has needs, and he is as Brazilian as any of us.” , said the president, for whom the Brazilian Indians have the right to development and consumption like any citizen.
Bolsonaro had already been accused of racism last month by different indigenous organizations due to a similar statement. “The Indian is increasingly a human being like us. So, we are going to make the Indian integrate into society and really own his land,” he said then.
On the criticisms of environmentalists, he said that his desire is to confine the “environmental staff” in the Amazon and bring the Indians to the cities.
“This great step depends on Parliament. They will suffer pressure from environmentalists. If one day I can, I confine them to the Amazon, since they like the environment so much, and I leave those born in the Amazon here in urban areas.” , said.
Since assuming the Presidency on January 1, 2019, Bolsonaro has been in favor of the economic exploitation of the Amazon and has affirmed that it does not intend to create new indigenous reserves, since it considers an “exaggeration” that the original peoples already occupy about 14 % of the entire Brazilian territory.
That policy has made it the target of permanent criticism of the Indians. Last January, leaders of 45 ethnic groups in Brazil signed a letter in which they denounced that their government launched a “political project” of “genocide, ethnocide and ecocide.”
The dispute between the head of state and the Indians had a new chapter on Wednesday when the Government confirmed the appointment of an Indian evangelist as the new director of the body responsible for caring for isolated Indians in the Amazon who have no contact with the ” civilization”.