BRASILIA (Reuters) – Leftist former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva promised Brazil’s indigenous peoples on Tuesday that he would end illegal mining in their reserves and recognize their land claims if he wins the election October presidential election.
Lula visited a protest camp in Brasilia where several thousand members of 200 tribes gathered to oppose far-right President Jair Bolsonaro’s plans to allow commercial farming, mining and exploration oil on their land.
“Everything this government has decreed against indigenous peoples must be repealed immediately,” said Lula, who served as president for two terms from 2003 to 2010.
“No one has done more for the indigenous people than our Workers’ Party governments, and now everything has been dismantled by this unscrupulous government,” Lula told a cheering crowd.
Bolsonaro trails Lula in early polls ahead of the Oct. 2 election. The president vowed in 2018 not to recognize a single centimeter of indigenous reserve land, earning him support from Brazil’s powerful agricultural lobby.
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Indigenous leaders have called on Lula to rebuild the government indigenous affairs agency Funai, whose funding and staff have been cut under Bolsonaro.
“Lula, we are not protected. Our rights are being violated,” said Joenia Wapichana, the country’s only indigenous representative in Congress.
She said illegal occupations of protected indigenous lands are being legalized and wild miners are invading reserves where they are destroying forest and polluting rivers.
Illegal mining rose 46% on the Yanomami reservation last year as high gold prices and tacit support from Bolsonaro sparked a gold rush, bringing disease, violence and human rights abuses. rights, according to a report released Monday.
The plight facing the tribes has led to a record number of more than 30 indigenous people running for Congress this year, said Sonia Guajajara, head of APIB, the main umbrella organization for Amazon tribes.
(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
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