Brazil Congress ditches Bolsonaro decree weakening indigenous agency

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro attends a ceremony of the Brazilian National Development Bank (BNDES) Line of Credit for Philanthropic Organizations at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil June 13, 2019. REUTERS/Adriano Machado

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazil’s Congress threw out part of a decree by President Jair Bolsonaro giving say over indigenous land claims to the Agriculture Ministry, further undermining the right-wing president’s agenda to empower rural farmers in disputes over land.

The move, announced by Senate President David Alcolumbre came a day after a Supreme Court justice suspended Bolsonaro’s move to strip the land decisions from indigenous affairs agency Funai, which is part of the Justice Ministry.

“We agreed the subject should be handled by the Ministry of Justice and Public Security,” Alcolumbre wrote on Twitter.

In late May, lawmakers spoiled Bolsonaro’s first attempt to grant the land demarcation powers to the farm ministry, but the president issued a second decree on June 19 reinforcing the move.

A presidential decree goes into effect immediately, but requires the approval of Congress within 120 days to become law or it expires.

Bolsonaro, a former army captain elected last year on a wave of conservative sentiment, has alarmed anthropologists and environmentalists alike with vows to assimilate the country’s 800,000 indigenous people into Brazilian society.

The far-right president says he wants to open reservation lands to agriculture and mining, even in the Amazon rainforest, encouraging indigenous tribes to engage in commercial activity in return for royalties.

Reporting by Eduardo Simões; writing by Gabriela Mello, editing by G Crosse