Jair Bolsonaro is 2019’s Racist of the Year — here’s why

Jair Bolsonaro, President of Brazil, has won Survival International’s Racist of the Year Award 2019

It’s been quite a year for the “Trump of the Tropics,” aka Jair Bolsonaro, President of Brazil. As well as being the thoroughly deserving recipient of Survival International’s Racist of the Year Award, in 2019 he has also positioned himself in the popular imagination as the greatest threat to the Amazon rainforest in recent history.

Here’s why Bolsonaro is such a worthy winner of 2019’s Racist of the Year Award, and how his ugly racism and dangerous policies put entire peoples and the future of our planet in jeopardy.

And please do keep reading, we’ve saved the worst till last…

He wants to forcibly assimilate indigenous peoples

Speaking before he was elected, Bolsonaro promised:

“We are going to integrate them into society. Just like the army which did a great job of this, incorporating the Indians into the armed forces.”

Since he was inaugurated in January, his legislative agenda has waged an assault on indigenous lands and livelihoods with the explicit aim of annihilating them as distinct peoples.

He has attempted to open up indigenous territories for resource extraction, remove protections for indigenous land, dismantle the indigenous healthcare system, and fatally cripple FUNAI, the Department for Indigenous Affairs.

Sonia Bone Guajajara and her colleagues from APIB (Association of Brazil’s Indigenous Peoples), and Survival International hand-delivered the Racist of the Year award to the Brazilian Embassy in London

“The indigenous genocide of Brazil is legitimized by the discourse of the president,” said indigenous leader Sonia Bone Guajajara, who was part of the APIB delegation that delivered the Racist of the Year Award to the Brazilian Embassy in London on November 14.

What could be more racist than deliberately trying to destroy Brazil’s 305 different tribal peoples, just because they live differently?

He thinks indigenous people are poor

“The Indians do not speak our language, they do not have money, they do not have culture.” Bolsonaro has said.

In his speech to the UN in September 2019, he claimed:

“The indigenous peoples do not want to be poor land owners on top of rich lands. Especially the richest lands in the world. It is the case of the Yanomami and Raposa Serra do Sol reservations. In these reservations, there is an abundance of gold, diamond, uranium, niobium, and rare earth elements.”

Before telling the UN what the Yanomami people want, he should have actually asked the Yanomami. The Hutukara Yanomami Association then issued a statement clarifying how they actually feel about the wealth of their lands:

“We, the Yanomami, are not interested in using the resources which lie beneath the earth and we do not want to sell gold and valuable minerals… Our land is rich because of the forest, not because of what lies beneath it. For us, wealth is the forest standing… We do not wish to be like non-indigenous people.”

His policies and rhetoric encourage genocide

Bolsonaro’s pro-business, anti-environmental, and anti-indigenous policy agenda have meant that, even though 2019 is not over yet, the number of attacks on indigenous territories so far this year has increased by 44%, with a 101% increase in lands affected by these invasions. Fires in the Amazon were up 80% in 2019 compared to the same period the previous year.

Paulo Paulino Guajajara, known as Kwahu, was shot dead following an ambush by loggers. He was a Guardian of the Amazon, a group of indigenous people from the Guajajara tribe who protect their territory from loggers. There is also an uncontacted tribe in the Guajajara territory, the Awá, who face possible genocide at the hands of the loggers

This violent onslaught on the rainforest directly threatens some of the most vulnerable peoples on the planet with imminent genocide: there are thought to be over 100 uncontacted tribes living in Brazil’s Amazon.

As more rainforest is invaded and destroyed in the name of economic “progress” and personal profit, uncontacted tribes become targets; massacred over resources because greedy outsiders know they can literally get away with murder. These are silent, invisible genocides, where there are few if any witnesses.

Let’s not forget that Bolsonaro once said:

“It’s a shame that the Brazilian cavalry hasn’t been as efficient as the Americans, who exterminated the Indians.”

2019 is only his first year in power and he will be President of Brazil for the next four.

Please join us now to stand in solidarity with Brazil’s indigenous peoples and #StopBrazilsGenocide

SURVIVAL INTERNATIONAL is the global movement for tribal peoples. Since 1969 we have helped them defend their lives, protect their lands and determine their own futures.

Survival International

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Survival International is the global movement for tribal peoples. We help them defend their lives, protect their lands and determine their own futures.

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Ed Yong
Mar 25 · 22 min read

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