APIB Denounces Bolsonaro's Attacks and Misinformation on Indigenous Peoples, Traditional Communities, and the Amazon

The Brazilian president delivered a series lies and denials about the state of the Amazon in speeches to the United Nations and Federal Supreme Court

Association of Brazil’s Indigenous Peoples (APIB)

For more information, contact:

Ada Recinos at +1.510.473.7542 or ada@amazonwatch.org

Indigenous peoples and traditional communities are blamed once again for the fires in the Amazon as Jair Bolsonaro continues to weaponize lying for political gain, most recently in his speech to the United Nations. The Association of Brazil's Indigenous Peoples (APIB) denounces Bolsonaro's attacks and misinformation on Indigenous Peoples, traditional communities and the Amazon.

In response, on Tuesday, September 22nd the APIB filed a motion in Brazil's Federal Supreme Court (STF) asking the administration to explain to the court the lies that the Bolsonaro administration continues to propagate and to provide further details on his communication with the UN regarding his attacks on Indigenous peoples.


On Friday, September 18th, the Minister of the Institutional Security Office, General Augusto Heleno, used social media to criminalize APIB and its leadership. He directly attacked Sônia Guajajara – APIB's Executive Coordinator – whose activism and defense of Indigenous and socio-environmental rights is known worldwide. The Minister claims that APIB has committed crimes against the State for reporting the flagrant environmental crimes that President Bolsonaro is responsible for.

When Bolsonaro addressed the 75th General Assembly of the United Nations on September 22nd, he was attempting to distort reality to sell a false image of Brazil to the world. By doing so, he is attempting to absolve the administration of its responsibilities to combat both the COVID-19 pandemic and the current environmental crisis in Brazil. Lying is Bolsonaro's most effective tool.

Fearing for the safety of their leadership, APIB filed a motion on that same day in the STF so that Minister Heleno may explain to the court his public lies and attacks on APIB and Sônia Guajajara.

APIB's press release responded to the false accusations from the Minister and in Bolsonaro's speech to the UN:

"While the federal government is passively watching the criminal fires that have engulfed the country, the head of the Secretary of Institutional Security, General Heleno, has published a serious accusation on his social networks. He said that the Association of Brazil's Indigenous Peoples (APIB) and one of its leaders, Sônia Guajajara, committed a crime against the country.

APIB rejects the accusation. Heleno must come to understand that the most important crime that harms our country is actually the government's failure to protect our biomes, protected areas, and indigenous lands from illegal fires, land grabbing, deforestation. That is the real theft of our wealth.

On the eve of the United Nations General Assembly, the whole world witnessed these crimes– they are too significant to be concealed. Instead of attacking individuals who work to protect the environment and guarantee the rights of indigenous peoples, the authorities should now comply with their constitutional oaths and present the nation with a plan to combat the fires that are devastating our country. Only then by extension will they manage to protect the economy and its national reputation.

The accusations, in addition to being frivolous lies, are irresponsible, because they endanger the personal security of those mentioned."

Misinformation is a central strategy in the Bolsonaro administration

Bolsonaro's allegations against civil society, environmental, and Indigenous rights organizations are intended to credit his administration for actions that he did not spearhead. One example is the emergency aid, one of the main government responses to provide support during the pandemic. The initial proposal made by the government was only R$200 (US$36.30) per household. Social movements and mobilization by the National Congress made sure that the aid was raised to R$600 (US$108.90). The emergency aid was extended for a total of nine disbursements (five disbursements of R$600 and four disbursements of R$300) which together provided R$4,200 (US$762.29). Therefore, Bolsonaro lied during his speech about the administration's provision of emergency aid, which the president claimed was US$1,000.

In terms of Bolsonaro's record on the environment, since the beginning of his administration he has made 127 false or misleading statements, according to data from the fact checking agency Aos Fatos. Yet another list of instances in which the President has chosen to lie and attack.

Bolsonaro also lied about the Amazon and the Pantanal being on fire, arguing that rainforests cannot catch fire because they are humid. He then blamed Indigenous people for the fire outbreaks, failing to acknowledge that deforestation is caused by criminal land grabbing networks, after which the fires are set to clear the forest for agribusiness. Data from the NASA monitoring system shows that 54 percent of Amazon's fire outbreaks are related to deforestation. In the Pantanal, the Federal Police investigated and concluded that the fires were started to clear fields for cattle breeding.

Bolsonaro claims that his administration is the victim of misinformation campaigns. It's becoming more and more clear that the president's criteria for defining misinformation is based on what is more convenient for his administration. Critiques, data, and formal investigations are part of a democratic state, but Bolsonaro has decided to use the power of his presidential administration to encourage attacks against any person, organization or press outlet that demands accountability.

While the government abuses its power to launch defamation campaigns on everyday citizens, APIB has taken matters into their own hands to lessen the impact of COVID-19 on Indigenous peoples and communities. More than 800 Indigenous people have died, and about 32,000 have been infected by COVID-19, according to data from APIB's National Committee for Life and Indigenous Remembrance.

The Federal Government was recently ordered by Brazil's Federal Supreme Court to present a specific plan to combat COVID-19 in Indigenous communities, contradicting Bolsonaro's speech at the UN when he claimed that he responded rapidly to the needs of Indigenous peoples during the pandemic. In fact, when parliamentarians presented a bill that provided an emergency plan to contain risk of ethnocide at the start of the pandemic, Bolsonaro vetoed passages that guaranteed access to drinking water, facilitating access to emergency aid, among other fundamental rights.

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