In politics, gestures matter. Between July 24 and 28, the hottest month recorded on the planet in 120,000 years, the greatest indigenous leader in Brazil, Raoni Metuktire, received in the Amazon, in the village of his people, the Mebêngôkre-Kayapó, representatives of 54 native peoples of the six biomes of the country. They had responded to the call for a “meeting of the guardian leaders of Mother Earth”, a demonstration of unity in the first year of the government of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. And also a test to see if the politician, in his third term, is sincere in relation to the protection of the largest tropical forest in the world and its peoples.
On January 1, at Lula’s inauguration, Raoni walked up the ramp of the Planalto Palace with the president, a rather difficult sign of support for the old man. In Lula’s second term (2007-2010), Raoni and most of the indigenous leaders felt betrayed when the then president decided to build the disastrous Belo Monte hydroelectric plant, despite all the protests of the peoples of the Amazon jungle. . It was a vote of confidence. One more. Carefully planned, the image of Raoni and Lula, along with other representatives of minorities massacred during the government of his predecessor, was made to show that the country, brutalized by the right-wing extremist Jair Bolsonaro, was returning not only to democracy, but also to to civility.
Lula, however, did not return the gesture. On July 26, the president underwent a palliative procedure to relieve hip pain caused by osteoarthritis. It is expected that at the end of the year he will undergo surgery to solve the problem. As Lula himself explained, he has lived with pain for a long time. But he chose just the week of Raoni’s historic meeting to carry out the procedure.
It’s hard to criticize claims of ill health without coming across as insensitive or inhumane, especially when it comes to a 77-year-old president. But Raoni, who on that date was supposedly 91 years old – his age is uncertain – did not buy it. On the same day, he sent her the following message: “I am not a child, we are of the same generation, we are adults, before we are too old we have to talk about indigenous lands so that miners and loggers do not encroach on them. That’s why you have to come.”
But Lula neither went nor sent any of his non-indigenous ministers to a village that can be reached by plane. The only one was Sonia Guajajara, Minister of Indigenous Peoples, an obvious presence even if she was not in the Government. Everything got worse when, on the last day of the meeting, Friday July 28, Lula published on social networks a photo of him as best man at the wedding of the government leader in Congress, Randolfe Rodrigues. The senator, who made a name for himself as an “ecologist” politician, surprised most a few months ago, when he attacked the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Marina Silva, and defended oil prospecting at the mouth of the Amazon .
Besieged by a hostile Congress, largely composed of destroyers of nature, Lula gave Rodrigues the image he denied to Raoni. And we are only in the first half of the first year of government. Means.
Translation by Meritxell Almarza.
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