Lula promises to create a Ministry of Indigenous Peoples if he returns to the presidency of Brazil

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BRASILIA (AFP) – Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said Tuesday that if he returns to power in 2023, he will create a Ministry of Indigenous Affairs, addressing a creative gathering of indigenous peoples in Brasilia.

Lula is the frontrunner in the October elections, where he will face, according to opinion polls, far-right President Jair Bolsonaro in the second round.

Although the campaign will not officially start until August, the former leftist president (2003-2010) has increasingly adopted an electoral tone in his public appearances.

“If we create a Ministry of Racial Equality, Human Rights and Fisheries, why can’t we create a ministry to discuss Indigenous issues?” he said at Camp Tierra Libre, an annual event that advocates for indigenous rights.

“This ministry should be taken by one of you, not a white man like me,” he added, to applause, as he wore a multicolored beaded necklace bearing a picture of a parrot.

Before his speech, Lula received gifts, ritually blessed with sacred hymns, a smoking pipe, and heard the Brazilian anthem translated into the language of the Ticuna people, from the state of Amazonas (northern).

In Brazil, the responsibility for policies targeting indigenous people rests with the National Indian Foundation (Funai), a government body established in 1967.

But indigenous organizations denounce that they are in fact operating under the Bolsonaro government against their interests.

Lula said that if he were to return to power, he would promote “Abolition” Day, to “immediately” roll back the current government’s decisions on Indigenous affairs.

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“No one will do anything without you deciding and agreeing,” he promised.

“I am ready to return to rule this country after 12 years of leaving the presidency.” “I will come back wiser, calmer and more experienced,” said the 76-year-old former president.

Bolsonaro, who has been in power since 2019, defends the economic exploitation of indigenous reserves, which he sees as an obstacle to development.

With the support of its agribusiness allies in Congress, the government is trying to accelerate several projects seen as harmful to indigenous people and the environment, including one that seeks to legalize mining in their reserves.

Lula also referred to a report by the Hutukara Yanomami Association (HAY) published the day before, which indicated a 46% increase last year in illegal gold mining and blatant abuses by miners in the territory. Yanomami, the largest indigenous reserve in Brazil.

“It is not possible to hear complaints about the abuse of men, women and children in Yanomami, and that women are being raped,” he denounced.

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