Last Tuesday, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro gave his first address to the United Nations General Assembly. Touching on a number of points throughout his more than 30-minute speech, he opted to focus on what you likely thought about when reading his name: the Amazon.
Referring to both news of its ongoing destruction and the president’s lack of interest in protecting it, he insisted that all countries have problems, and accused the media of perpetuating lies. The only thing he hopes to do, he assured leaders of the world, is to develop what he describes as “a new Brazil.”
But, will Indigenous communities be part of it? In a baffling string of words, he said, “Unfortunately, some people both inside and outside Brazil, supported by NGOs, have stubbornly insisted on treating and keeping our Indians as if they are real cavemen.” With his comment, he insinuated that they’re not opting out of assimilation. He also spoke out against respected Kayapo chief and potential Nobel Peace Prize candidate Raoni Metuktire, claiming the 89-year-old is being used as a pawn by foreign governments.
In response, Chief Raoni called on Bolsonaro to step down. “Bolsonaro said I was not a leader, but it is he who is no leader and should go,” he said in a news conference.
Metuktire is known as the country’s top Indigenous chief and has defended the forest for a lifetime.
On the other hand, it’s no secret that Bolsonaro is not particularly invested in preserving or protecting the Amazon in its current form nor respecting the people who call it home.