According to the Catholic Church’s Indigenous Missionary Council, violence against Brazil’s indigenous people increased last year as land disputes and invasions of their reservations increased and the government failed to provide protection.
According to its annual report on violence against descendants of Brazil’s original inhabitants, there were 182 murders of indigenous people in 2020, up from 113 in 2019, a 61 percent increase.
There were 263 reported land invasions, a 137 percent increase over previous year’s incursions on indigenous territory.
The report blamed the government for failing to protect indigenous communities, while pushing legislation that would open their reservations to commercial mining, oil and gas exploration and the building of hydroelectric dams.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who once praised U.S. Army cavalry colonel George Armstrong Custer for clearing the prairies of indigenous people, has criticized reservations for occupying valuable land and has said he will not grant another inch of land claimed by indigenous communities. He is backed by powerful farm interests.
Critics say his comments have emboldened illegal miners, squatters, and loggers, whose invasions of reservation territories have exacerbated the spread of the coronavirus. Over 800 indigenous people have died from COVID-19, according to official figures that only count deaths on reservations and not among indigenous people in Brazil’s cities.
Their land claims have been paralyzed. Of the 1,289 reservations in Brazil, 832 are waiting for official recognition.
The second year of Bolsonaro’s government saw “the deepening of an extremely worrying scenario in terms of indigenous rights, territories and lives,” the report said.
The presidency did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Brazil has a population of 900,000 indigenous people, of which one third have moved off reservations to urban areas.