During the 2018 campaign, President Jair Bolsonaro said his administration would not yield an inch of territory to new indigenous land demarcations — a promise he has kept. He was also targeted by two complaints at the International Criminal Court for allegedly committing “genocide” against native communities. Despite all this, the Bolsonaro government has awarded the president with a medal for “merit in indigenous expertise.”
The medal was granted by Justice Minister Anderson Torres and recognizes “relevant services of an altruistic nature, related to the welfare, protection, and defense of indigenous communities.” Besides Mr. Bolsonaro, another 25 officials were awarded the medal, including Mr. Torres himself, Defense Minister Walter Braga Netto, and Agriculture Minister Tereza Cristina — who defends the interests of landowners.
Since war broke out in Ukraine, President Bolsonaro argued that Congress should pass a bill greenlighting mining ventures on indigenous lands. Environmentalists warn that it would hurt native communities — due to soil and water contamination, as well as possible land conflicts.
The government has also lobbied for the Supreme Court to restrict land ownership rights given to indigenous peoples. They call on justices to rule that communities can only claim land they occupied in 1988, when the Brazilian Constitution was enacted — instead of basing their claims on historical ownership of land.
The environmentalist caucus in Congress wants to suspend the medal, but the push will have little effect.