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Jair Bolsonaro aides 'froth hate' for indigenous people, says sacked official

Brazil’s far right president, Jair Bolsonaro, is being advised by aides who “froth hate for indigenous people,” the head of Brazil’s indigenous affairs agency has told colleagues after he was fired from his post.

Franklimberg de Freitas addressed around 100 staff at the Funai agency after his dismissal on Tuesday, which he blamed on pressure from the country’s powerful agribusiness lobby, which has long sought to develop the vast indigenous reserves of the Amazon.

The episode is the latest clash in the battle over indigenous rights under Bolsonaro, who promised “not one more centimetre” of land would be allocated to indigenous people and moved to dismantle Funai’s power on his first day in office.

“The president is very badly advised when it comes to indigenous politics in this country,” de Freitas said in his speech, reported by local newspaper Folha de S.Paulo and confirmed by the Guardian. He singled out a senior agriculture ministry official Nabhan Garcia, who is the president of an agribusiness lobby.

“Nabhan, when he talks about the indigenous people, froths hate for them,” said de Freitas who added that Funai is seen as “an obstacle to national development” in Bolsonaro’s government.

This marked the second time that de Freitas has been been forced out of Funai: in April 2018 the retired army general was fired by the previous government of Michel Temer after pressure from an agribusiness lobby that considered him too sympathetic to indigenous tribes.

In January, he returned to the agency which is responsible for around 900,000 indigenous people and reserves that represent 13% of Brazil’s territory.

This week Funai’s staff association issued a letter to Bolsonaro expressing concerns at “the suffocating termination of the management of indigenous administration”.

Hours after Bolsonaro took office in January, he signed an executive order stripping the agency of the power to allocate indigenous territory. That responsibility was passed to the agriculture ministry, which experts say would halt demarcations.

Congress voted to undo the president’s actions in May.

“Funai lives under attack,” a Funai employee told the Guardian under the condition of anonymity. “Bolsonaro has made it clear what he wants for the indigenous people… Everyone is frightened, but we’re used to it – we knew it wouldn’t be easy for us.”

Additional reporting by Dom Phillips

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