The Brazilian politician who said of indigenous people “…let them die of hunger in poverty…” and referred to them as “those little fags” has been given the Racist of the Year Award by Survival International, a tribal advocacy organization based in the UK.
Fernando Furtado, a lawmaker in the northern Amazonian state of Maranhão and a member of the Brazilian Communist Party, made the offensive remarks in a meeting with a group of landowners, loggers and business people on July 4.
The public meeting was held in the town of São João do Caru, not far from territory belonging to the Awa people who have been attacked by illegal logging operations and others.
“They don’t know how to plant rice, so let them die of hunger in poverty,” Furtado said at the gathering. “That’s the best thing, because they don’t know how to work.”
“I saw them in Brasilia…those little fags, three of them were fags I am sure of that,” he said at the meeting.
Furtado issued a public apology in September, after national condemnation from many Brazilians, including people in Furtado’s own party as well as the opposition.
A spokesman for the Communist Party of Brazil (CPB) repudiated Furtado and added that the party had “historically a position of respect of minority communities, in particular the indigenous people.” Members of the opposition Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (known as PMDB in Brazil) announced their intention to file a request for sanctions with the Congressional Ethics Commission.
In October, illegal loggers were setting massive fires in the nearby Awa territory. One of the fires raged for a month according to SI, endangering the lives of several hundred Awa people.
“This includes a group of uncontacted people, who are one of the most vulnerable societies on the planet,” SI reported in a recent press statement.
Brazilian authorities have been trying to expel illegal loggers and others from that same Awa territory in the last year, including sending Brazilian Armed Forces to the area. Resentment against indigenous people has been growing in the region, fed in part by lobbying by logging and ranching advocates.
“These loathsome remarks indicate the extent of racism against tribal peoples among some of the most powerful people in Brazilian society,” said SI Director Stephen Corry.
The efforts to protect Indigenous territory is ongoing, according to SI and others but boundaries around these lands have not been set due to various legislative maneuvers, including a controversial law that would take demarcation rights away from indigenous communities and give that power to legislators.
The amendment did not pass last December but has since been reintroduced.