Bolsonaro and Funai pressure indigenous leaders for mining

“We are involving the President of the Republic, wanting to help, ministers, do I have to listen about cooperatives? The patience is over. Do you want to stay with NGOs? Wonderful, stay with these damn NGOs, but just remember: they are inside Brazil. General Mourão, the Army, Federal Police, will go for it”, says the logger João Gesse in audio leaked by the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (Apib) and confirmed by the Mining Observatory.

The audio is about a meeting held in Brasília on March 24th with the presence of Gesse, Jair Bolsonaro, Marcelo Xavier, president of the National Indian Foundation (Funai), a government body, and a delegation of Kayapó leaders from the south of Pará. The meeting did not appear on Bolsonaro’s official agenda.

At the meeting, Bolsonaro encourages indigenous people to push for mining and agribusiness on their land.

The president of Funai, on the other hand, instructed logger Gesse to file a popular lawsuit against an indigenous association that does not agree with mining and offered to finance a visit by a delegation of Kayapó leaders to the lands of Paresis, in Mato Grosso, which plant soybeans controversially.

The cooperative mentioned in the audio is a Kayapó Ltda, founded in 2018 with the articulation of João Gesse and the former federal deputy and singer Sérgio Reis, Bolsonaro’s friend. In its statute, a cooperative list with the objective of “extraction, agro-industrial exploration, production and joint marketing”, among others, of “mineral resources existing in the Kayapó Reserve”.

Today, mining on indigenous lands is prohibited. In February 2020, Jair Bolsonaro send to Congress the Bill 191/2020, which may allow mining and other activities within indigenous lands. With the election of Arthur Lira, the project is now considered a priority.

Upon learning of the cooperative’s objectives, leaders and chiefs of the Kayapó people released a letter requesting the entity’s extinction.

In an interview, João Gesse confirmed the audio content and said that the Funai presidency ask if they could use the cooperative’s statute as a reference for other indigenous peoples in Brazil. According to Gesse, however, the indigenous people are free to decide whether or not they want to continue with the cooperative.

In a video recorded at the end of the meeting, Bolsonaro says that the indigenous people “want their land to be used” for “agriculture, livestock, mineral exploration, water resources”, which would not be “easy”, but that is possible. To this end, the president said at the meeting that indigenous people need to encourage deputies to approve the bill.

Ask by the report, the Presidency of the Republic does not answer the questions sent.

Niti Kayapó, the leader who was at the meeting, said that “I cannot say that I am against gold mining” and that this activity “needs to be discussed with all Kayapó”. In 2019, new mines deforested 330 hectares of forest in the Kayapó area, according to data from Sirad-X, from the Xingu + network. It is double that recorded in 2018.

Funai’s President recommended action against indigenous NGO

In another excerpt from the audio revealed by Apib, João Gesse attacks the Prosecutor’s Office and say that the president of Funai, Marcelo Xavier, would have directed him to bring a popular action against the NGO Associação Floresta Protegida (AFP), an indigenous organization of the Mẽbêngôkre People / Kayapó that represents 3 thousand indigenous people from 31 villages in the south of Pará.

Says Gesse:

“And since this rotten, omitted prosecutors did not raise the complaints we made, we are going to file a lawsuit. Didn’t you see the president of Funai, who is a police chief of Federal Police, say that to us? The general also spoke. That’s what we’re going to do”.

The complaint made by Gesse against the Floresta Protegida to federal prosecutors in 2017 for alleged irregular activities and diversion of resources was dismissed. In an interview, Gesse confirms the orientation of the president of Funai.

“Xavier told me: Gesse, the way is a popular action, because the Prosecutors Office does not help. So that’s what we’re going to do. Against whoever is needed”, said Gesse. Federal prosecutors of Pará declined to comment.

For Bepnhoti Atydjare, known as Amauri, executive coordinator of the Floresta Protegida, the persecution of João Gesse aims to disrupt the organization’s activities. The NGO is against mining on indigenous land.

“It is easy to file a complaint without proof and block all funding for us. This is what he tried and failed. He’s trying to create a fight between the Kayapó”, said Amauri.

The AFP’s executive coordinator points out that indigenous NGOs are doing the inspection, preservation and monitoring work that the federal government should do. The Kayapó have more than 10 organized institutions.

Questioned several times about the content of the meeting and the statements raised, Funai did not comment.

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