The Attorney General’s Office on Tuesday asked to suspend the controversial appointment of an evangelical missionary as head of the entity that takes care of isolated Indians in Brazil because they consider that there is a conflict of interests and risk of returning to the genocide of indigenous tribes.
The request – of an “urgent” nature – asks to cancel the appointment of missionary Ricardo Lopes Dias, confirmed by the Government of the president of Brazil, the ultra-rightist Jair Bolsonaro, last week.
According to the accusing body, there is an “obvious conflict of interest” between the person appointed to the position and the indigenist policy of the South American country, as well as a technical incompatibility and a “risk of backing down” in the policy of non-contact adopted for Brazil since the 1980s.
Lopes Dias, an anthropologist and theologian with more than a decade of experience as a missionary of the American evangelical group Mission of New Tribes of Brazil (MNTB), was appointed as head of the Coordination of Isolated Indians and Recent Contact (CGIIRC) of the Funai, which takes care of the nearly 114 ethnic groups that, it is estimated, live in the country without contact with “civilization.”
The American mission has been active since the 1950s in the evangelization of indigenous peoples of the Amazon despite criticism from chiefs of different ethnicities to their methods and objectives.
Lopes Dias, who trained in anthropology at the Federal University of Amazonas, worked between 1997 and 2007 in the evangelization of different ethnic groups in the Javari Valley, a region in the Amazon in which there are records of several isolated villages.
To this is added that in order for the missionary to access the position, the National Indian Foundation (Funai) ordered to change the internal regulations eliminating the requirement that the coordinator be a career official, which for the Attorney General’s office “weakens” the capacity of the entity to protect this type of indigenous tribes.
“The appointment of a person who is not an effective public official and, in addition, has a connection with a missionary organization whose mission is to evangelize indigenous peoples, has an obvious conflict of interest with the indigenous policy of the Brazilian State,” he says. the accusing body in the petition.
It also highlights that the appointment runs the risk of causing “irreparable and irreversible damage to the policy of non-contact and respect for the self-determination of peoples, as well as risks of genocide and ethnocide.”
In fact, the appointment was questioned before its confirmation by organizations such as the Articulation of the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil, the Union of Indigenous Peoples of the Javari Valley, the Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI, linked to the Episcopate of the Catholic Church ) and Survivor International.
Last January, leaders of 45 ethnic groups in Brazil signed a manifesto letter in which they denounced that the Bolsonaro government launched a “political project” of “genocide, ethnocide and ecocide” against the indigenous people.
In the letter, the 600 signatories denounced the escalation of violence against indigenous people and rejected the possibility that agriculture or mining be authorized in indigenous reserves, as Bolsonaro defends.
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.
Last week the Brazilian president signed 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.