BRASILIA – Hundreds of women from different indigenous communities launched a day of protests in Brasilia this Monday demanding that the administration of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro provide better healthcare in their territories, which they consider threatened by current government policies.
The Indigenous Women’s March began with a gathering in front of the Health Ministry, whose entrance was blocked for a couple of hours by dozens of police due to the authorities’ fear of disturbances, though no violence occurred.
One of the health demands had to do with the government’s supposed intention to transfer responsibility for that area to the municipalities, which indigenous leader Sonia Guajajara said was part of Bolsonaro’s “agenda of destruction.”
“We will accept no imposition of the Bolsonaro government’s agenda of destruction,” nor can all things related to indigenous healthcare will be “handed over” to the municipalities because that is a responsibility of the federal government, Guajajara told EFE.
According to a document distributed during the protest, “many municipal administrations are lined up with very powerful racist and anti-indigenous political and economic interests, and either provoke or practice violence against native peoples.
The communities represented in the Indigenous Women’s March rejected once again the work of Silvia Waiapi, an army lieutenant of the ethnicity from which she got her name, as head of the government’s Special Indigenous Health Secretariat.
The document complains that Waiapi’s appointment to that position had “the hidden objective of pitting indigenous against indigenous” and maintains that the official is acting “in an authoritarian and racist way while criminalizing indigenous leaders who reject those moves.
They accuse her, moreover, of promoting the transfer of health matters for the indigenous peoples to the municipalities, which they insist “will make even weaker the historically insufficient” healthcare for native communities throughout the length and breadth of the land.
Since he took power last January, Bolsonaro has been in permanent conflict with the indigenous peoples, who condemn his controversial promotion of mining projects in the Amazon region, where most of the reservations are located, among other policies that affect the native communities.
Indigenous women, who have come to Brasilia from their territories around the country, plan to remain in the capital until Wednesday, when they will join a traditional march of farm laborers which has been held for almost 20 years.
Known as the “March of the Margaritas,” this protest has also been called this year against the policies that the Jair Bolsonaro government is imposing on Brazil’s rural regions, which gives prime importance to big corporate agriculture without a thought for small family farms.