Former Bolsonaro officials to face probe on indigenous policies

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The Federal Prosecution Office opened two investigations into allegations of nonfeasance by the Jair Bolsonaro administration in regard to its policies for indigenous peoples. The inquiries will separately investigate indigenous foundation Funai and the Human Rights Ministry.

Both investigations were opened on February 13 but were only disclosed on Wednesday. According to the Federal Prosecution Office, the Human Rights Ministry only spent 44 percent of its budget in 2020 (official government data shows even less, around 37 percent). The underspending affected policies aimed at the protection of indigenous peoples. Prosecutors did not disclose details on why they will investigate Funai.

Last month, a Supreme Court justice ordered an investigation into the potential participation of Jair Bolsonaro government officials in the crimes of genocide, disobedience, leaking sealed information, and environmental crimes related to the life, health, and safety of various indigenous communities.

Brazilian authorities have been paying more attention to the situation of indigenous peoples since late January, when Health Minister Nísia Trindade declared a national state of emergency to deal with the humanitarian crisis affecting the Yanomami people, who live in the northern states of Amazonas and Roraima. A task force found children and elderly people suffering from severe malnutrition, in addition to several cases of malaria, severe acute respiratory infection (SARI), and other diseases.

A few days after being elected in late 2018, Jair Bolsonaro pledged not to demarcate any more reservations, a promise he indeed kept. In fact, his government did the opposite, recognizing farmland inside indigenous reservations and pushing for legislation that would allow indigenous land to be exploited for mining ventures. 

In 2020, Mr. Bolsonaro said that indigenous people were “becoming humans like us.”

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