The Brazilian government is changing the process for approving Indigenous lands, with critics warning the country now risks sliding back after years of progress on climate and environment.
The move to strip the country’s National Indigenous Foundation (Funai) of its power on Indigenous land matters comes after the country saw a 30% rise in deforestation of tropical rainforests.
Brazil’s justice minister, Alexandre de Morates announced last week that decisions over demarcating Indigenous land will now be made by the ministry of justice.
Environmentalists and political figures say the changes will weaken land rights of Indigenous communities and make it easier for agricultural firms to move into the Amazon where much of the land is located.
The government of Interim-President Michel Temer is perceived to be rowing back on environmental protections in favour of agricultural development.
Since coming to power after the ousting of President Dilma Rousseff, Temer’s government has moved to cut funding and support for Funai and the country’s main environmental protection body.
In an open letter written last month, employees from Ibama, the government organisation responsible for protecting the Amazon, complained about a lack of support for their work.
“We are not controlling deforestation rates in the Amazon.
“We estimate that the increase in the last two years reflects Brazil’s refusal to prioritise an environmental agenda.
“This is exemplified by successive investment cuts, the weakening of laws, as well as appointments of state managers who have had no experience working in the environment,” the letter read.
Speaking to Energydesk, Attorney General of the Amazon State of Para argued the change in policy is largely down to the farming lobby.
“In the west of Para farmers have deforested loads without permission, but the government didn’t react and eventually they just changed the law. They’re basically sending the message that if you break the law enough, it’s…