The Bolsonaro administration assigned a new task to the Government Secretariat department, usually responsible for political relations with the Congress. It will also monitor the work of nonprofits and international organizations in Brazil.
An executive action (Medida Provisória 870) states that the Government Secretariat will "supervise, coordinate, monitor and follow activities of international organizations and nonprofit institutions in Brazilian territory."
In a tweet posted Wednesday (2nd), Bolsonaro accused nonprofits of exploring and manipulating indigenous peoples and black rural residents (known as quilombolas), without showing any corroboration for his claims.
"If the goal were to make for a more constructive high-level relationship between social organizations and the government, it would be a welcome measure," said José Miguel Vivanco, director for the Americas at Human Rights Watch.
"However, the words 'supervise' and 'monitor' suggest a lack of understanding of the independent role that these organizations perform in an open and democratic society."
For activists for indigenous rights, the measure, a first in the Brazilian government, wants to weaken their institutional partners.
Dinamam Tuxá, the executive coordinator of Apib (Association of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil), says that the measure, along with gutting Funai (National Indigenous Foundation) by taking power to delimit indigenous lands to the Ministry of Agriculture, Bolsonaro is "attacking those who defend native Brazilians."
Teresa Cristina, a lawmaker from the farming caucus, will lead the Agriculture Department. She denied that the indigenous peoples’rights would be neglected during her term.
"We were thrilled to hear that the government will closely watch the nonprofits," mocked Nilo D'Ávila, campaign director at Greenpeace Brazil.
"That way, it will be able to quickly act on our complaints of land grabbing, illegal deforestation, illegal logging, fraudulent land licenses, and other issues."
Folha asked the new Government Secretary, General Santos Cruz, for comment, but had no answer.
Translated by NATASHA MADOV