BRASILIA, June 7 The head of Brazil's Indian
affairs agency, Funai, has resigned due to health problems, it
said on Friday, a decision that also comes amid escalating land
conflicts between farmers and Indian tribes that led to the
shooting an indigenous man last week.
Marta Maria do Amaral Azevedo's departure, after little more
than a year at the government agency created to protect Indian
tribes, comes after the government limited Funai's power to
return land to tribes that it deems traditionally indigenous.
Funai's actions have come under heavy criticism in recent
months after a series of land restitutions to Indians including
a large area in the grain-farming belt from which Xavante
Indians were evicted in the 1960s.
The government introduced new rules last month bringing
other entities including the agriculture ministry into the
process of deciding whether land areas were long-occupied by
indigenous tribes and to be returned, sidelining Funai which
previously had sole responsibility for the task.
The government sent 110 federal troops on Tuesday to a
disputed property that Indians are occupying in Sidrolandia in
Mato Grosso do Sul, to prevent more violence after an Indian was
shot dead in chaos that erupted when they were ordered to leave.
Instead of a forced eviction, President Dilma Rousseff said
the government would seek a resolution through negotiation.
Indians have also repeatedly occupied the construction sites of
hydroelectric dams they say will uproot them from their homes.
Funai said in a statement that Azevedo needed to undergo
medical treatment incompatible with her schedule as head of the
entity. It said its sustainable development director, Maria
Augusta Assirati, was appointed interim president.
(Reporting by Maria Carolina Marcello and Peter Murphy; Writing
by Peter Murphy; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)