Brazil’s new president, Jair Bolsonaro, has wasted no time showing he will lead the country in the same regressive manner that he ran his campaign, setting his sights on the LGBTQ community, indigenous people, and the descendants of slaves.
On day one, within hours of taking over, Bolsonaro signed executive orders limiting the rights of each group, the Associated Press reports.
He removed concerns of the LGBTQ community from consideration by the new human rights ministry, and did not name another group to take over that work. Damares Alves (pictured below), the new human rights minister, did not discuss that order in her first address.
Both Alves and Bolsonaro have made clear their anti-LGBTQ stances. The new president has said he would rather have a dead son than a gay one, and has called “gender-based ideology” a threat to the country’s Christian values.
Alves is an evangelical pastor who said, “The state is lay, but this minister is terribly Christian,” and promised to make girls “princesses” and boys “princes.”
“There will be no more ideological indoctrination of children and teenagers in Brazil,” she added.
“The human rights ministry discussed our concerns at a body called secretariat of promotion and defense of human rights. That body just disappeared, just like that,” said LGBTQ activist Symmy Larrat. “We don’t see any signs there will be any other government infrastructure to handle LGBT issues.”
Brazilian newspaper Folha de São Paulo has reported that Bolsonaro will later announce the closing of an agency within the Education Ministry whose purpose has been promoting diversity in public schools and universities.
Last year, the Brazilian independent advocacy organization Grupo Gay de Bahia reported a 30% increase in anti-LGBTQ homicides from 2016 to 2017. In March of last year, Marielle Franco, a lesbian city councilor in Rio de Janeiro, was shot and killed. Two months later, a 21-year-old non-binary model was murdered in Rio.
Observatorio do Clima, a network of 45 Brazilian civil society groups, identified the executive orders as “only the first step on meeting Bolsonaro’s campaign promises of dismantling environmental governance, stripping indigenous peoples of their rights and opening up indigenous lands for business.”
Another of Bolsonaro’s orders transfers the work of delineating indigenous territories from the Justice Ministry to the Agriculture Ministry, now headed up by Tereza Cristina, who is part of the agribusiness caucus and has a history of opposing requests from native communities. This also affects slave descendants, known as Quilombolas.
The FUNAI agency oversaw the Justice Ministry’s land delineation methods, as well as the health care, housing, and language preservation efforts for indigenous groups. That agency has been moved to a new ministry for family, women, and human rights, and is now lead by an ultraconservative evangelical pastor. Plans for cuts to health care have already been announced.
Bolsonaro said last year he hopes to annul land demarcation decisions made by previous administrations, but legal experts said recent Brazilian Supreme Court rulings would likely block such an effort.