Bolsonaro options to Amazon Yanomami: Forced integration or extinction
The Yanomami genocide is a consequence of the resumption of an old project of the Armed Forces that began in the early years of the military dictatorship, the Intercept reveals.
Almost a week after Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva accused his former President Jair Bolsonaro’s far-right administration of committing genocide against the Yanomami people of the Amazon, the Intercept released a report that shed the light on the tragedy experienced by the Yanomami people, arguing that it is not just the result of the Bolsonaro government’s omission. It's much more than that.
The genocide is a consequence of the resumption of an old project of the Armed Forces titled National Integration Plan, as per the Intercept.
The report eviscerated the historical background of the military dictatorship [the Brazilian dictatorship lasted for 21 years, until 15 March 1985] behind the genocide, stressing that former army captain Jair Bolsonaro, described as "a notoriously lazy deputy," worked extensively against Indigenous peoples — especially the Yanomami people" for decades along his government.
"The military dictatorship was prodigal in decimating indigenous peoples in the name of progress.”
Their policy was focused on integrating the Indigenous into the “civilized world”.
A history of genocide
Three years after the 1964 coup, the military established Fundação Nacional dos Povos Indígenas (Funai), which was commanded by soldiers under the slogan: Order and Progress. Their policy was focused on integrating the Indigenous into the “civilized world", as per the report.
During the Médici administration, the military regime directed the National Integration Plan, which aimed to expand the country's internal borders, open motorways, and build new cities.
To accomplish this, Indigenous leaders who fought for their lands were persecuted, arrested, tortured, and murdered.
In 1972, General Ismarth de Araújo, superintendent of Funai, declared that "an integrated Indian is one who becomes a worker."
The report starkly recalled that the Indigenous people who fought back against this project were killed.
Bolsonarism goes back in time, blood-stained
The then-deputy Jair Bolsonaro worked relentlessly to ensure the ethnic group's extinction. In 1992, he filed a legislative order that called for the abolition of the Yanomami reserve, which had been established the year before.
The proposal was shelved, although Bolsonaro attempted to implement it four more times. "The Brazilian cavalry was really incompetent," Jair Bolsonaro stated in one of his plenary remarks in support of the regulation. "Competent, indeed, was the North American cavalry, which exterminated its Indians in the past and nowadays there is no such problem in the country".
The ascension to power of Bolsonarism allowed for the continuance of this military enterprise. The Bolsonaro government's indigenist strategy, like that of the dictatorship, gives Indigenous peoples two options: forced integration or extermination.
The scenes of starving Yanomami men, women, and children with exposed bones depict the success of the project's continuation.
Malnutrition and starvation are direct consequences of illegal miners' seizure of their areas. Mining in the area inhibits the Yanomami from engaging in basic productive activities.
The advancement of illicit mining and the health of Indigenous peoples have been important themes in national public discourse over the previous four years. The Federal Public Ministry (MPF) and the STF, among others, all issued warnings about the gravity of the situation, highlighting the lack of basic health care in Yanomami areas since the first year of the Bolsonaro administration.
The report went on to say that the MPF delivered the first warning to the government regarding the Yanomami's famine in Roraima in 2020.
The agency decided that Sesai, the Special Secretariat for Indigenous Health, should cover the cost of purchasing food for the community. Yet, nothing was done on the ground.
Of course, Sesai, according to the report, served the initiative started during the military regime of the Bolsonaro administration. During this time, it was led by troops with no prior knowledge of Indigenous health. Army Colonel Robson Santos da Silva was the first to take up the portfolio.
Then came another colonel's turn: Reginaldo Ramos Machado, a personal friend of Jair Bolsonaro. Both ordered the folder's service structure to be destroyed. The body's important positions and departments were closed command and the Bolsonaro government.
Control and social participation mechanisms, such as the District Councils for Indigenous Health (Condisi) and the National Council for Indigenous Policy (CNPI), were extinguished.
The fingerprints of the military and Bolsonaro government are imprinted at every stage of the Yanomami catastrophe. Unsurprisingly, mining in this region is heavily controlled by clandestine firms related to smuggling and organized crime.
Adding salt to injury, the Bolsonarist military took action to legitimize mining on Yanomami land. Before the Bolsonaro government ended, reserve general Augusto General Heleno, a former minister of the Institutional Security Office, the GSI, permitted gold mining near the Yanomami Indigenous land.
The person granted the authorization is a prospector who has already served a term for drug trafficking and has been accused of receiving stolen tires by the Public Prosecutor's Office. This is the "order and progress" strategy, which directly benefits a prospector with a history of criminal activity at the expense of Indigenous peoples' health. This is a classic example of the hypocrisy that is at the heart of Bolsonarism, the report further detailed.
It is worth noting that the military did not just authorize mining in Indigenous regions. They conspired with the garimpeiros.
Defending Indigenous peoples
Sônia Guajajara, Minister of Indigenous Peoples, initiated Funai's demilitarization. 43 troops who refused to protect Indigenous peoples have already been fired.
This is the start of a lengthy process to save the people. It is critical that the country harshly punish the military and all those who supported the military dictatorship's plan for the annihilation of Indigenous peoples.
This constitutes a crime against humanity, the report said.
The Armed Forces must be structured so that they do not attempt to restart this project in the future. It is no longer feasible to see a fundamental institution of Brazilian democracy collaborating with miners, coup plotters, and terrorists to actively destroy Indigenous peoples.
The Brazilian federal police lately announced that they are conducting an investigation into a "genocide" against the Yanomami people after it emerged that nearly a hundred children from the Indigenous group lost their lives.
Last week, Lula's government said 99 Yanomami children under the age of five had died in 2022 on Brazil's largest Indigenous reservation, mainly due to malnutrition, pneumonia, and malaria.
Shockingly, conditions on the Yanomami reservation have become increasingly violent, with illegal miners regularly killing Indigenous residents, sexually abusing women and children, and contaminating the area's rivers with the mercury used to separate gold from sediment.
Experts have repeatedly warned that the rise in illegal mining in the Amazon has accelerated the development of diseases like malaria and TB, in addition to Covid-19.
The country's Supreme Court had ordered that gold miners in the area be removed, but the Bolsonaro government, which pushed mining and agribusiness on Indigenous grounds, never followed.
Today, the new government headed by Lula is exerting strained efforts to save Brazil's largest Indigenous reservation and its people.