Native Brazilian Child from Tupi Guarani Tribe.

Damares Alves, minister of the newly created Ministry of Women, Family and Human Rights, decided to cancel a contract of almost BRL 45 million signed by Brazil’s indigenous affairs agency (Funai) and the Fluminense Federal University (UFF). The agreement was published on November 28, just a few weeks before the end of Michel Temer’s term as president.

Among the services the university was supposed to provide were functional mapping, the creation of territorial databases, and the implementation of a cryptocurrency for indigenous populations. The majority of the funds (BRL 35 million) would come from the 2018 budget, with BRL 10 million being paid in 2019. There was no public bidding.

Last week, Funai servants protested the new contract, claiming it has no “technical pertinence” and it wasn’t analyzed by any internal agency. They sent a letter to Funai’s president, Wallace Bastos, expressing their concern. The institution was under the political control of former congressman André Moura, of the Social Christian Party, also a former leader of the Temer government in the House of Representatives.

He was accused of appointing his allies not only to Funai but also to the Brazilian Industrial Development Association (ABDI) and the National Institute of Social Security (INSS). On December 18, Michel Temer appointed Mr. Moura as a director at the National Agency of Sanitary Surveillance (Anvisa), but the new government is set to withdraw his nomination.

The former congressman ran for Senator in Sergipe but did not get elected. Just one day prior to getting the Anvisa nod from Mr. Temer, Mr. Moura was convicted for the abuse of political power and lost the right to run for office for the next eight years.

Indigenous land demarcations under the Ministry of Agriculture

Lawyer and evangelical pastor Damares Alves took office on Wednesday and said that all public policies in Brazil will have to be built around the idea of a “family”. Jair Bolsonaro’s government moved Funai from the Ministry of Justice to under the purview of Ms. Alves and Human Rights. At the same time, the new president gave the Ministry of Agriculture responsibility for the delimitation and demarcation of indigenous lands.

Funai’s move from Justice to Human Rights worried many indigenous rights groups, who had already lobbied the future government to keep the indigenous affairs agency as part of the Ministry of Justice.

They are afraid that indigenous communities will be left unprotected and that programs of demarcating traditional indigenous land—which have stalled since former president Dilma Rousseff was ousted in 2016—will be nixed. The new Human Rights Minister has a background in indigenous rights, having co-founded evangelical NGO Atini, which is devoted to fighting for the rights and welfare of indigenous children.

The perspective for indigenous peoples is not good at all. Mr. Bolsonaro has said multiple times that he is against the demarcation of traditional lands, music to the ears of agribusiness, rich farmers and landowners. He also said he believes indigenous communities want to be “integrated” into society.

Worse than that, he wants to revise demarcations previously made, such as the emblematic Raposa Serra do Sol reservation.

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BY Diogo Rodriguez

Rodriguez is a social scientist and journalist based in São Paulo.