With deforestation on the rise, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro signed an executive order just hours after his inauguration on Tuesday that lets the agriculture ministry, which is swayed by the agribusiness lobby, regulate and create new indigenous reserves.
The indigenous agency Funai handles demarcation of indigenous lands; as part of the executive order, Funai is being moved from the justice ministry to a new ministry for women, family, and human rights, led by an ultraconservative evangelical pastor. In a tweet on Wednesday, Bolsonaro defended himself by saying "more than 15 percent of national territory is demarcated as indigenous land and quilombos. Less than a million people live in these places, isolated from true Brazil, exploited and manipulated by NGOs. Together, we will integrate these citizens." Quilombos are settlements in rural areas for descendants of former slaves.
The right-wing Bolsonaro campaigned on reducing environmental restrictions and making it easier to mine and farm commercially on indigenous reserves. Dinaman Tuxá, executive coordinator of the Articulation of Indigenous People of Brazil, told The Guardian this move will lead to "an increase in deforestation and violence against indigenous people. Indigenous people are defenders and protectors of the environment." Marina Silva, the former environment minister, tweeted that Bolsonaro "has begun his government in the worst possible way."