In his effort to reinforce his electoral brand as the anti-Jair Bolsonaro, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva met with indigenous groups at a protest camp in Brasília. If elected in October, the presidential frontrunner promised to create an Indigenous Affairs Ministry in his new cabinet.
Lula offered no details on the ministry’s potential powers and responsibilities but assured it would be led by an indigenous person — which would be a first in the history of the Brazilian government. On the same day, a coalition of left-wing parties said they would launch at least 30 indigenous candidates for state legislatures and the lower house in this year’s elections.
The protection of historically oppressed ethnic groups has always been dear to Lula’s Workers’ Party. In 2003, during his first term as president, he created the Special Secretariat for Policies to Promote Racial Equality, meeting demands of black rights movements.
Indigenous leaders called out the former president for the construction of the Belo Monte dam during the Workers’ Party era. Building the world’s fourth-largest hydroelectric dam complex resulted in the displacement of multiple communities and created environmental imbalances that threatened the livelihoods of 25 indigenous and non-indigenous villages. “Certainly, Workers’ Party administrations didn’t do everything they should have,” said the former president.
He also touched on the contentious relationship between farmers and native communities. “No farmer has the right to invade indigenous land,” he declared on Tuesday.
Mr. Bolsonaro sits on the opposite side of the issue, pushing for looser regulations on mining in protected areas. During his presidency, the federal government has blocked processes to grant land to indigenous groups and has allowed illegal wildcat mining to thrive.