Brazil’s unelected government of President Michel Temer has sacked the head of its Indigenous rights agency, known as Funai, just days after a militarized crackdown on Indigenous demonstrators protesting against the administration's neoliberal austerity agenda that has already started to hit poor and marginalized people in the country hard.
Antonio Costa, who was outspoken against the Temer administration’s exorbitant budget cuts to the agency, said he had been dismissed "for being honest" in defending the rights of Brazil's Indigenous peoples. Funai, the National Indian Foundation, is the government body charged with establishing and overseeing policies concerning the country's Indigenous population.
"I refused to employ (for jobs at Funai) 20 people who were recommended by the government's leader in Congress, Andre Moura, but who've never seen an Indigenous person in their lives," Costa had said earlier, reported the BBC.
He had later told journalists that he "would never employ people at the agency who have no commitment to Indigenous causes."
The government had rejected Costas comments, with Justice Minister Oscar Serraglio saying in a statement, “Considering the high priority the government gives to Indigenous matters, the agency requires a more agile and efficient management, which we didn't have.”
The move comes just a week after dozens of armed men brutally attacked 13 Indigenous Gamela people over a land conflict in northern Brazil, hacking off the hands and feet of at least one of them with machetes, Indigenous rights groups reported Monday.
The Indigenous people were all hospitalized in the state capital, Sao Luis, some with severe bullet wounds and three remaining in intensive care.
It also comes days after another attack on Indigenous people by Brazilian military police, who charged at thousands of Indigenous tribe members in front of the country's Congress in Brasilia, where they were protesting for greater rights.
Several demonstrators attempted to occupy the pond in front of the congressional office and were met by police who used rubber bullets, pepper spray and flash bombs to disperse the crowd. In response, Indigenous protestors shot arrows at the police and in the direction of Congress.
Advocacy organizations have warned of an alarming uptick in the number of assaults against Indigenous groups in Brazil.