Violence against indigenous people in Brazil increased by more than 60 percent last year, a human rights group has said, as land invasions of indigenous territories escalated and the government failed to provide protection.
In its annual report, released Thursday, on violence against the descendants of Brazil’s original inhabitants, the Indigenous Missionary Council of the Catholic Church (CIMI) said there were 182 murders of indigenous people in 2020, compared to 113 murders in 2019, a increase of 61 percent.
263 land invasions of indigenous territories were reported, CIMI said, an “alarming” increase of 137 percent compared to last year.
The report blamed the government of far-right president Jair Bolsonaro for failing to protect indigenous communities, while pushing legislation that would open up their reserves for commercial mining, oil and gas exploration and the construction of hydroelectric dams.
Last year, the Bolsonaro government saw “the deepening of an extremely disturbing scenario in terms of rights, territories and indigenous lives,” the report said.
Indigenous land claims have also been paralyzed under the Bolsonaro administration, the report said. Of the 1289 reservations in Brazil, 832 are awaiting official recognition.
The Brazilian president recently visited indigenous territory and defended illegal mining that has “a major environmental impact on indigenous people,” Cesar Munoz, a senior US researcher at Human Rights Watch, said on Twitter.
Bolsonaro has previously praised U.S. Army cavalry colonel George Armstrong Custer for clearing indigenous people from the plains of North America.
He has also criticized the reserves for occupying valuable land and has said he will not give a single inch of land claimed by indigenous communities. It is backed by strong farm interests, as part of a group of lawmakers unofficially known in Brazil as the “calf, Bible and bullet” bloc.
Critics have said Bolsonaro’s comments have emboldened miners, invaders and illegal loggers whose invasions of reserved territories have exacerbated the spread of the coronavirus.
More than 800 indigenous people in Brazil have died from COVID-19, according to official figures counting deaths only in bookings and not among indigenous people in Brazilian cities.
Brazil has a population of 900,000 indigenous peoples, of whom a third have moved out of reserves to urban areas.
The office of the Brazilian president did not immediately respond to requests for comment from the Reuters news agency.
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