On the same day that President Jair Bolsonaro made his anti-indigenous speech at the U.N. General Assembly in New York, Brazil’s Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI) released its annual report, “Violence Against Indigenous Peoples in Brazil.” The data collected are from 2018, but the report also includes preliminary information for 2019, and the findings are alarming.
In the first nine months of the Bolsonaro government, which took office at the start of 2019, there have already been reports of 160 cases of land invasion, illegal exploitation of natural resources, and damage to property in 153 indigenous territories. This is a significant increase from 2018, both in number and scope: according to CIMI’s report, 111 incidents of this type were reported in 76 indigenous territories last year. With 2019 not yet over, the total area that has come under attack is already double last year’s.
The report does not include homicide data for 2019, but reveals that 135 indigenous people were murdered in 2018 — an increase of almost 23 percent from 2017, when 110 indigenous people were murdered. The state of Roraima stands out as the most violent, with 62 homicides, followed by Mato Grosso do Sul, with 38. Combined with data provided by Sesai (the Special Indigenous Health Secretariat) and state health departments, CIMI recorded violent deaths of indigenous peoples in 12 Brazilian states.
“This is the result of the policy of genocide initiated under the Temer government, with stripping of agencies that provide assistance and protection, like INCRA and Funai, emphasizing the idea that indigenous territories should be exploited,” said Roberto Liebgott, CIMI’s southern region coordinator and one of those responsible for producing the report.
According to Liebgott, Bolsonaro’s statement as presidential candidate that “not a centimeter will be demarcated either as an indigenous reserve or as a quilombola” — land owned by descendants of runaway slaves — was the “trigger that authorized a criminal state, allowing that land to be pillaged for the benefit of the sectors who elected him.”
CIMI’s report also draws attention to other cases of deaths resulting from state negligence, including suicides and infant mortality. In 2018, 101 indigenous people took their own lives in Brazil, 44 of them in Mato Grosso do Sul.