Brazil is currently facing a number of struggles. One of those struggles is that indigenous Brazilians are facing the loss of their land and threats on their lives. A series of events have garnered more coverage in response to President Bolsonaro’s statements and desired actions in taking indigenous land, actions that have particularly been initiated through the judicial system in Brazil and the Presidential powers of Bolsonaro.
In 1998, Bolsonaro remarked, “It’s a shame that the Brazilian cavalry hasn’t been as efficient as the Americans, who exterminated the Indians” (Survival International, 2019). In comparison to one of his more recent quotes regarding indigenous people, he claimed that “In 2019, we’re going to rip up Raposa Serra do Sol [Indigenous Territory in Roraima, northern Brazil]. We’re going to give all the ranchers guns” (Survival International, 2019). These statements are a cause for concern as they illustrate how his mindset towards Native Brazilians has been far from positive and is focused on getting rid of the original inhabitants for his own purposes.
While Indigenous Brazilians have dealt with previous encroachments on their land and have fought against different groups that focus on claiming their resources, they have been facing a significant series of attacks from the current Brazilian administration. These issues matter because the native people of Brazil are facing not only death threats but also death itself on their land. Gold and logging companies have been invading their land and who have been supported by the Brazilian government in their efforts. There are various cases where indigenous leaders, tribes, and activists have lost their lives as a result of these actions. They have encountered very little support under their current President, and it does not seem that there will be much help overall.
The statements that have been shared align with certain aspects of Ozan Varol’s article, which explains that democracy can also be undermined through stealth authoritarianism, which is where legal mechanisms are used in order to erode democracy. The statements of Bolsonaro indicate the response he has towards the indigenous people of Brazil, and support the reasoning behind the actions he has taken in order to stay as true to his words as possible. One of the key aspects of stealth authoritarianism is that it is hard to identify due to its subtleness. This means that laws may be introduced in order to make certain actions acceptable. An example of this was recently documented with a measure Bolsonaro has proposed, which would have had the power over indigenous land be transferred to the country’s agriculture ministry (Brazil judge blocks transfer of control over indigenous land, 2019). To many, this may not seem like a major issue, but the problem behind transferring power over to the agricultural industry is this could lead to utilizing indigenous land for agricultural purposes, an issue that many indigenous people have protested against. However, these actions have faced a bit of pushback, with this plan currently being halted by a Brazilian Supreme Court Judge, Justice Luis Roberto Barroso. Nevertheless, it is believed that President Bolsonaro will utilize his authority to put out more laws in order to accomplish his goals. One of the ways this may take form is through his use of Presidential decrees as a way to bypass their constitution. (Wernick, 2019). This is closely tied to the fact that Brazil’s largest paramilitary group, The Frente Parlamentar da Agropecuária, one of the major groups that “… represents businesses that move over 118 million US $ in agricultural and livestock products and who support Jair Bolsonaro’s agenda to open up lands and resources, previously safeguarded to exploitation.” As a result, Bolsonaro’s actions fall in line with his pursuit of profit from the agricultural industry instead of rectifying discriminatory acts against indigenous Brazilians.