By Richard Mann, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – During a meeting with indigenous people of different ethnicities on Wednesday, President Jair Bolsonaro threatened to promote layoffs at the National Indian Foundation (Funai) – the governmental protection agency for Indian interests and their culture – if the agency does not do what the indigenous people want.
“The indigenous people are the one to tell Funai what to do. Otherwise, I’ll fire Funai’s leadership,” said the president.
Although he has criticized environmental legislation and advocated the liberation of the gold-digging in indigenous lands, he said that the areas already demarcated must be respected.
The president also stated his commitment to freeing indigenous people from slavery and criticized NGOs.
“There are nasty Brazilians infiltrated in various institutions,” said Bolsonaro. “All the NGOs that work against you (Indians) are our enemies,” he said.
The meeting, which Bolsonaro described as a means to “end the demagoguery,” brought representatives of indigenous people from all over the country to Palácio do Planalto.
It precedes the 15th edition of the world’s largest annual indigenous assembly, the Terra Livre Camp, which happens between April 24-26. The event, promoted annually by the Articulation of the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil, raises awareness to issues faced by indigenous populations.