Brazil indigenous affairs official fired amid push to develop reservation land

Environment

FILE PHOTO – Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro looks on during a ceremony of the 154th anniversary of the Riachuelo Naval Battle at the Marine Corps Headquarters in Brasilia, Brazil June 11, 2019. REUTERS/Adriano Machado

BRASILIA (Reuters) – The head of Brazil’s indigenous affairs agency said on Tuesday he was fired due to pressure from the agriculture ministry which under President Jair Bolsonaro is seeking to open reservation lands to commercial agriculture and mining.

Franklimberg Ribeiro de Freitas, head of the National Indigenous Affairs agency Funai, was removed from the post by the Ministry of Women, Family and Human Rights, which oversees Funai, the ministry confirmed.

In remarks to agency employees, Freitas blamed Luiz Antonio Nabhan Garcia, secretary of land affairs in the Ministry of Agriculture, for his dismissal. Freitas said Bolsonaro was “very poorly advised.”

In May, the lower house of Congress rebuffed Bolsonaro’s move to put decisions on indigenous land claims in the hands of the Ministry of Agriculture and kept them with Funai.

The right-wing president alarmed anthropologists and environmentalists by planning to assimilate Brazil’s 800,000 indigenous people and open reservation lands to commercial development, even in the Amazon rainforest.

Azelene Inácio, a former director at Funai, is a potential replacement for Freitas at Funai.

Writing by Gabriela Mello; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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