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October 25, 2018

Indigenous Brazilians could be impacted by a Bolsonaro Admin.

Author: Michael Cordonnier/Soybean & Corn Advisor, Inc.

Brazilian will go to the polls on Sunday, October 28th to choose a new president and the likely outcome will be the election of Jair Bolsonaro, the right wing seven term congressman and ex-military officer. According to analysis conducted by the Sao Paulo newspaper Estado, a Bolsonaro administration could have a very significat negative impact on indigenous populations in Brazil.

If elected, Bolsonaro has promised to cancel any ongoing projects to establish any new indigenous reserves in Brazil. There are currently 129 such projects in various phases of completion within the government. According to the Nation Indian Foundation (Fundi), these proposed areas encompass 11.3 million hectares (27.9 million acres) on which live 120,000 indigenous Brazilians. Most of these areas are located in remote areas of northern and west-central Brazil.

As a candidate, Bolsonaro has also stated his intent to loosen restriction on development on the existing 436 indigenous reserves that currently encompass 117 million hectares (289 million acres) or approximately 14% of Brazil's national territory. He proposes opening up these lands for infrastructure development such as hydroelectric dams, highways, railroads, and mineral extraction. The Brazilian Constitution prohibits such activities on indigenous reserves and a three-fifths vote in the Brazilian Senate would be needed to amend the constitution to permit these activities.

These proposals are meeting with strenuous objections from organizations involved with indigenous communities. The President of Funai has stated that their mission will continue in accordance with the constitution and existing legislation independent of the results of the election. The Executive Secretary of the Indigenous Missionary Council has stated that the protection of indigenous lands is a constitutional imperative and an obligation of the federal government. He went on to say that no administration has the authority to circumvent the Brazilian Constitution.

If all 129 proposed new indigenous reserves were allowed to proceed to completion, the 565 total indigenous reserves would represent approximately 15% of Brazil's national territory which is 851 million hectares (2.1 billion acres).

According to an assessment by the Socialenvironmental Institute (ISA) and Funai, there are 40 mega infrastructure projects already proposed to cross indigenous lands including hydroelectric dams and electrical transmission lines.