Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro, has used the first half year of his administration to target the rights of the indigenous, the quilombos (descendants of escaped African slaves), and other vulnerable communities and natural habitats across the country.
Provisional measures put in place on the first day of Bolsonaro’s rule gave the Ministry of Agriculture and agribusiness the control and ability to enact measures and policies of quilombo territory and indigenous lands after stripping the Agrarian Reform Institute and the Indigenous Affairs Office of responsibility over their respective lands.
To gain a deeper understanding of the situation, Unicorn Riot heard the thoughts, perspectives, and fears of two Brazilians, Hugo Souza and EmiciThug (pronounced MC Thug).
- Hugo Souza, from Belo Horizonte, Brazil, is a former militant of COMPA (Coletivo Mineiro Popular Anarquista), a part of CAB (Coordenação Anarquista Brasileira), MPL (Movimento Passe Livre) and MOB (Movimento Organização de Base).
- EmiciThug is a songwriter, rapper, and youth worker in Nova Rosa da Penha, Cariacica, Brazil. He is part of the Coletivo CriAtividade (Creative Collective), a creative sporting, artistic, and cultural collective which aims to show another look at the reality of peripheral neighborhoods stereotyped as violent and poor.
At a time when humans are drastically bringing about species extinction and dramatic climate change through fossil fuel extraction projects and pollution, the Amazon Rainforest faces new serious threats. The Ministry of Agriculture was also given control of the Amazon, taking the power away from the National Forestry Services, which monitors the second largest forest systems in the world (these moves may still be amended by the Brazilian Congress).
“It’s a move, coupled with loosening environmental legislation and halting on reservation establishment processes, to seize and exploit indigenous traditional lands and their attached resources.” – Hugo Souza
Hugo Souza explained the significance of these moves that endangers the indigenous and opens up the Amazon to further deforestation and business development:
“One of the first decrees of the Bolsonaro administration was a decree placing an army general in charge of monitoring foreign NGOs and organizations acting in Brazil. They believe the indigenous people here are selling our natural resources to foreign entities and openly stated they will repress them. It’s a move, coupled with loosening environmental legislation and halting on reservation establishment processes, to seize and exploit indigenous traditional lands and their attached resources.
Indigenous lands in the Amazon are the most ecologically preserved ones, they patrol their areas at gunpoint to prevent illegal loggings and invasions. That often results in conflicts with armed farmers militias and the police, and Bolsonaro just issued a decree loosening gun control and has stated he will create more legal protection for the police, effectively giving them a carte blanche to kill on duty. This will mean a lot more violence towards indigenous people, to the point that a government member has said that ‘whomever liked indians should go to Bolivia’.
He [Bolsonaro] will also use the federal police (our FBI equivalent) to attack them. A lot of Bolsonarist governors were elected too, pulled up directly by Bolsonaro recommending them, and they are in direct control of policia militar, our gendarme/patrolling police, which will mean added violence to indigenous groups and that the police will look the other way when violence against minorities and leftist militants takes place by non state actors.” – Hugo
Unsurprised that Bolsonaro followed through on his campaign rhetoric, EmiciThug spoke about how they must organize against the government that has already “shown hatred against us“:
“We (black, poor, favelado and informed people) knew that this government would not be for the benefit of the underprivileged. Since the election period, he [Bolsonaro] has shown hatred against us. Already in the first acts, he only put in practice part of what he had promised. It’s so scary to know that this is still “just the beginning”. I hate being pessimistic, but if we do not take sides, if we do not seek organization with a grassroots work, better days will not come.” – EmiciThug
“I believe that decree on monitoring foreign organizations will hit leftists pretty soon too.” – Hugo
“The feeling we have is that Brazil is experiencing a period of “witch hunt”, which in the modern period is the people and their organizations. May God protect the Brazilian Northeast, the Africa of Brazil.” – EmiciThug
“Quilombos are living proof of resistance.” – EmiciThug
Brazil has the largest population of descendants of African slavery in the world. The Portuguese, who started their violent pillaging and control of Brazil in the 1500s, brought West African slaves to provide free labor to extract sugar and other exportables. As slave owners would literally work the Africans to death, uprisings and revolts against the slave masters across Brazil forced the government to abolish slavery a mere 127 years ago, on May 13, 1888.
The history of the African diaspora in Brazil is rife with institutional inequalities similar to the racist policies we see throughout the Western world.
Amidst the institutionalization of slavery and the revolts against it, many African slaves escaped bondage and created quilombos, their own independent, self-sustaining communities in the back-country of Portuguese settlements. These communities would provide a bit of safety and refuge as well as a space for uniting other escaped slaves under a common purpose of liberation.
Quilombo communities still exist throughout Brazil today. Many of these communities are now further threatened by the new decrees of the Bolsonaro government. Regularization of quilombo territory is now stripped from the Brazilian Institute of Agrarian Reform (INCRA) and gifted to the Ministry of Agriculture control.
“If we were to resort to history we would certainly come to the conclusion that ‘whites’ are a threat to the other races. The Chinese have been here, the Africans have been here, but none of them have come with this desire to “colonize”, to “conquer”, “enslave”, “steal” what is most valuable in the Americas. The white man came and brought with them the worst of the human being. It is even funny to watch the riches in European countries and know that this was the result of extortion, rapes, looting and murder.
Quilombos are living proof of “resistance” from a people that, even undergoing all sorts of “extermination” and exclusion processes, survived. It is more than a right, it is an obligation of the Brazilian State to ensure the permanence of the quilombos and indigenous lands. The Brazilian State should guarantee security for these peoples. But our current president is nothing more than a Trump. The future of quilombos and indigenous peoples is us, it depends on us. If we continue to accept everything naturally, we will be extinct because they made us hate ourselves.” – EmiciThug
“We have a history of persecution of Afro Brazilian religions, but recently it has gotten worse in the sense that Neo-Pentecostal religious have gotten pretty powerful, owning TV and radio stations and even being important backers of the Bolsonaro ticket in the last election, and they literally demonize Afro Brazilian religions. A friend of mine who is a practitioner told his mother that if she voted Bolsonaro she’d have to pick up his body in the morgue. I believe this is the level of fear of those communities with regard to the Bolsonaro government.
The Neo-Pentecostal hate on Afro religions is so bad they have converted drug dealers and enlisted them to destroy Afro Brazilian religious temples and harass ‘priests’.” – Hugo
“Brazilian fascism is strongly attached to the American far-right.” – Hugo Souza
Brazil’s President, Jair Bolsonaro has faced many high-profile scandals in his first five months. Earlier this year, reporters linked his family linked to death squads and the assassination of politician and LGBTQ+ activist, Marielle Franco.
Donald Trump’s former White House Strategist, Steve Bannon, hired Bolsonaro’s son Eduardo (one of them who isn’t directly linked to death squads) to represent South America in The Movement, a group of nationalist leaders in Europe.
As the far-right continues its rise across the globe, Jair Bolsonaro, who proudly embraces the nickname of “Trump of the Tropics“, is quickly becoming a figurehead.
Hugo Souza brought up the collusion of Trump and Bolsonaro and said with the financial interest of the two countries aligning the way they seem to be, “an imperialist war against Venezuela” may be in the near future:
“Brazilian fascism is strongly attached to the American far-right. Our military dictatorship was U.S. backed, our right loves America and one of Bolsonaro’s sons, who is very much an alt-righter, met up with Steve Bannon a few times and right after his father won the election went to America to talk with the Trump Administration. Brazil had a traditionally non aligned role in foreign relations, but this government will be strongly subservient to U.S. interests and aligned with the United States. This may mean an imperialist war against Venezuela.” – Hugo
EmiciThug spoke of continued resistance to the far-right and the “process of white man domination through control“:
“If the right (rich) wants to rule to the right, we must remind them that we, the left (poor and favelados), are the majority here. I know that this rise of the far-right is part of the process of white man domination through control of the mechanism, of industry, of nations, but my people have resisted since yesterday, so today’s mishaps are just more a day in the life and history of the black people.
My people have always been enslaved, used, murdered. We still do not have easy access to information, crowding prisons, dying ahead of time, worshiping false saviors of the homeland. The president is there because we could not deal with it in the best way. We let them destroy the image of the left and accept everything naturally. The next few years will be more struggle. But what is a drop of water to those who have always lived in the midst of a storm?” – EmiciThug
“I learned about peace in the children’s smile. I learned about war and hatred from the police.” – EmiciThug
In Brazil, a country with about 85 million less people than the United States, Brazilian police kill 4,000 more people on average per year than police in the U.S.
Police killing community members is a daily occurrence. Bolsonaro’s policies are likely to continue to increase the repressive mechanisms that the police unleash on the population.
In Rio de Janeiro, police have killed record numbers of people this year. In early May, they killed 8 in a raid and on May 14, police killed Professor Jean Rodrigues da Silva Aldrovande, an innocent bystander with a shot to the head during a police operation at the entrance to a community.
Authorities are so emboldened to act with impunity that the Mayor of Rio tweeted a video from a helicopter during a police mission in which they shot at the community from the helicopter.
As for the future of Brazil, Souza gave us some economic predictions based on neo-liberal style reforms that could bring the country into what he said could be “general chaos” that may lead to a fundamentalist government:
“There will be a Pinochet style economic reform, since the Econ Minister is a Chicago boy and was in Chile during Pinochet, but not with tax cuts, at least not American style tax kickbacks for the wealthy. They will reduce taxes for the wealthiest bracket and increase it for most of the population, as well as make general spending cuts including what we call sistema s, which is a group of government funded organizations that train new professionals on low income trades, supplying businesses with cheap qualified labour. They will promote a hardcore austerity even on business essential organizations, so some really hard times are to come and that often hits the weakest link in the economic chain the worst.
The stock market may react positively at first but in the medium run that kind of policy brings about heavy recession… I predict we will be in a worse shape than Argentina currently is. I predict hunger to come back, homelessness, violence… General chaos. And that’s the background I suspect a fundamentalist government might take place.
Yet, as time passes, the Bolsonaro government seems more disorganized less politically able and has 10x more infighting than the Trump Administration, and while the apocalyptic predication’s might still hold true, it will probably look more like a slapstick comedy than 1984.”
To make it out of the storm that EmiciThug spoke on, we asked him and Hugo what the best way to resist and organize for change, to which they said:
“Base building is the way to go. The left needs to focus on community outreach and organize on a geographical level in my opinion, but that department is mostly already taken by Neo-Pentecostals. Uniting the left instead of bumping on each other all the time too wouldn’t hurt.” – Hugo
“Rap is the way of the Resistance. Our musical style has always informed people. In order for a better world to be possible for us, it is necessary to get these academics out of the front line and put ourselves there, for they are billing our blood. When I speak, I am not only talking about whites, I am talking about black and black people who, after acquiring knowledge, use it against their own people.
People need to be informed and politically trained. It is necessary to teach people about the Brazilian Constitution, the periphery needs to learn about how the game works. Information is the way of revolution. The most lethal weapon remains the “young black with information.”
I learned about peace in the children’s smile. I learned about war and hatred from the police. I have lived a lot that has served to get me here, contrary to statistics, being the cancer of the system, being the problem that they were not able to solve. No one can represent us (people) better than we (people). We must take blacks who do not represent us from the “positions” they occupy in society to represent us. Enough of being a step for these opportunists. Enough of being the blood that promotes fascists.” – EmiciThug
As many in the favelas of Brazil suffer from the governmental policies and police repression, the indigenous and quilombos in the countryside and forest also lament the future and are, like in the city, organizing to resist encroachments on their way of life and for a better future.
Unicorn Riot's Coverage From Brazil:
- ‘Marielle, Presente’ – March Marks Feminist Struggles in Brazil - April 13, 2023
- Over 100 Families Occupy Abandoned Apartment Complex in Brazil - February 20, 2023
- Bolsonarist Extremists Attack Brazilian Government a Week After Lula Inauguration - January 12, 2023
- Elder Woman Released After 27 Years of Slave-like Servitude in Brazil - January 5, 2023
- With Lula Elected President of Brazil, the Left Consolidates itself as a Power in South America - November 9, 2022
- Elections in Brazil: Second Round Slated for October 30 Between Lula and Bolsonaro - October 7, 2022
- Ribeirão Favel’Arte, Festival of Arts and Culture in Brazilian Favelas - September 7, 2022
- Indigenous Official and British Journalist Murdered in Brazilian Amazon - July 7, 2022
- ‘Bolsonaro Never Again’ Protests Come Among New Wave in Government Scandals - May 19, 2022
- COVID Commission Finds Bolsonaro Committed “Crimes Against Humanity” - December 15, 2021
- Brazil: 600K Deaths, Emergency Aid Ends, Protests Continue, & People Call for Lula 2022 - October 9, 2021
- Brazil: Mutual Aid During COVID-19 and Bolsonaro’s Mismanagement - September 19, 2021
- Police in Brazil Killed Record Amount of People in 2020 - September 8, 2021
- Are the “Fora Bolsonaro” Protests Enough? - August 26, 2021
- Brazil: Hoping for a Vaccine, Food on the Plate and #ForaBolsonaro - July 9, 2021
- Brazil: The People, at Last, Took to the Streets - June 3, 2021
- The Invisible “THEY” - Apr. 29, 2021
- “Brazil is Asking for Help” – Artists and Activists Speak Out - Apr. 10, 2021
- Brazilian Pandemonium: COVID-19 Kills Over 300K - Mar. 27, 2021
- Brazil Nears 200K Deaths as Politicians Continue to Downplay COVID-19 - Dec 20, 2020
- Echoes of George Floyd in Brazil: Man Kneeled On, Killed by Security Guard - Nov 23, 2020
- The Coronavirus Crisis in Brazil – An Interview with EmiciThug - May 22, 2020
- “Enough of Being the Blood that Promotes Fascists”: Viewpoints From Brazil - May 15, 2019