May 17 (UPI) — A Brazilian congressional commission, led by a powerful farming lobby, has recommended dismantling the National Indian Foundation, or FUNAI, indigenous rights agency following a land boundary investigation.
The commission suggested FUNAI, which is run by anthropologists, should be replaced with an agency run by the Brazilian Ministry of Justice.
Critics have slammed the suggestion, arguing dismantling FUNAI would empower farmers who seek to use more land in the Amazon rainforest, Jornal O Globo reported.
In Tuesday’s session, the commission voted that prosecutors should seek indictments against about 80 FUNAI officials out of more than 100 who are accused of supporting what the commission considered as illegal land claims by indigenous groups.
The commission, which critics say was created to attack the rights of indigenous Brazilians, was established in November to investigate land demarcation disputes and agrarian conflicts.
Antonio Costa, the head of FUNAI, was fired earlier this month after an attack in which 10 indigenous people were hurt in the Maranhao state that Brazilian police officials said was carried out by farmers and landowners. Costa said he was fired because of his complaints that FUNAI’s budget had been cut by more than 40 percent, for defending the rights of indigenous Brazilians and “for being honest.”
In late April, Brazilian indigenous groups in the capital city of Brasilia protested and briefly clashed with police in opposition to a government proposal they say would further deteriorate their land rights.
A proposed constitutional amendment would transfer the federal power over the demarcation of indigenous lands from the executive branch of government to the legislative branch. The indigenous groups say the proposal threatens their land rights because it would allow logging companies and farmers to encroach on their land.