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Wed May 6, 2020, 05:09 PM

Brazil using coronavirus to cover up assaults on Amazon, warn activists

Fears Jair Bolsonaro’s ‘land grabbers decree’ may be pushed forwards after new rule allows land-grabbing on indigenous reserves

Dom Phillips in Rio de Janeiro

Wed 6 May 2020 08.24 EDT

As the coronavirus pandemic eats its way into the Amazon, raising fears of a genocide of its vulnerable indigenous tribes, the government of the far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, and its supporters are dismantling rules shielding protected reserves. Key environment officials have been sacked, and environmentalists and indigenous leaders fear the pandemic is being used as a smokescreen for a new assault on the rainforest.

They say a presidential decree awaiting congressional approval and new rules at the indigenous agency Funai effectively legalise land grabbing in protected forests and indigenous reserves.

“The indigenous peoples are alone and we have to fight against the virus, the loggers and the wildcat miners. We don’t know which is worse,” said Alessandra Munduruku, an indigenous leader from Pará state.

Bolsonaro, notorious for racist remarks about indigenous people and a nationalist argument in favour of developing the Amazon, is popular among farmers, wildcat miners, loggers and land grabbers. He said the Yanomami indigenous reserve – Brazil’s largest – was too big and attacked environment agencies for fining people for environmental crimes.


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