Bolsonaro’s “indigenous medal” is giving awards a bad name.

March 26, 2022
Jair Bolsonaro

Indigenous leaders said Jair Bolsonaro had spent three years promoting legislation that would open their territories to commercial development. Photograph: Adriano Machado/Reuters

Tom Phillips on 17 March 2022 reported how the Brazilian Government honours a president who activists accuse of undermining Indigenous protections.

Brazilian activists are outraged after Jair Bolsonaro – who has been accused of spearheading a cataclysmic attack on Indigenous rights – was honoured by his own government for his supposedly “altruistic” efforts to protect Indigenous lives.

Bolsonaro was granted the Medal of Indigenous Merit on Wednesday in recognition of what the justice ministry called his attempts to defend Indigenous communities in the South American country.

The same honour was bestowed upon key Bolsonaro allies, including his health, defence and agriculture ministers and the hardline institutional security chief, Augusto Heleno, who has accused Indigenous activists of committing crimes against the state by criticising the government’s policies overseas.

Indigenous leaders reacted to the award with disbelief and exasperation, noting how Brazil’s far-right president had spent three years undermining its Indigenous and environmental protection agencies, Funai and Ibama, and promoting legislation that would open Indigenous territories to commercial development.

The Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil criticised the government’s “contemptuous gesture”. “They want to destroy us at all costs and, as if that wasn’t enough, they now want to pay tribute to themselves in our name?” the group said, claiming Bolsonaro deserved only “the medal of Indigenous genocide”.

Alessandra Korap, an activist from the Amazon’s Munduruku people, said Bolsonaro needed to be arrested, not honoured “for all the destruction he has inflicted on Indigenous people and the forest”. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/10/14/brazilian-alessandra-korap-munduruku-wins-2020-robert-f-kennedy-human-rights-award/]

“Now he wants to use the Ukraine war [as justification] for allowing mining, oil and gas exploration, hydroelectric dams and soy plantations on Indigenous lands,” Korap added, in reference to recent moves to fast-track draft legislation allowing such activities.

Alessandro Molon, the lower house leader of Brazil’s opposition, urged Congress to strip Bolsonaro of the medal. “It’s a mockery that the same government that is trying to legalise mining on Indigenous lands – endangering the existence of these utterly persecuted and mistreated people – has the nerve to award itself medals of ‘merit’ for all of the harm it has caused over the past three years,” Molon told the magazine Veja.

“If Congress doesn’t overrule this absurdity it will be associating itself with this unprecedented assault on Indigenous people,” Molon said.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/mar/17/contemptuous-anger-in-brazil-as-bolsonaro-given-indigenous-merit-medal

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