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SAO PAULO/BRASILIA, Jan 2 (Reuters) – New Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro issued an executive order on Wednesday making the Agriculture Ministry responsible for deciding on lands claimed by indigenous peoples, in a victory for agribusiness that will likely enrage environmentalists.
The temporary decree, which will expire unless it is ratified within 120 days by Congress, strips power over land claim decisions from indigenous affairs agency FUNAI.
It hands it to the Agriculture Ministry, which will now be responsible for “identification, delimitation, demarcation and registration of lands traditionally occupied by indigenous people.”
The move is likely to stoke concern among environmentalists and rights groups that the far-right new president, who took office on Tuesday, will open up the vast Amazon rainforest and other ecologically sensitive areas of Brazil to greater commercial exploitation.
Jair Bolsonaro was sworn in as Brazil’s president Tuesday, taking the reins of Latin America’s largest and most populous nation with promises to overhaul myriad aspects of daily life and put an end to business-as-usual governing.
For the far-right former army captain, the New Year’s Day inauguration was the culmination of a journey from a marginalized and even ridiculed congressman to a leader who many Brazilians hope can combat endemic corruption as well as violence that routinely gives the nation the dubious distinction of being world leader in total homicides.
A fan of U.S. President Donald Trump, the 63-year-old longtime congressman rose to power on an anti-corruption and pro-gun agenda that has energized conservatives and hard-right supporters after four consecutive presidential election wins by the left-leaning Workers’ Party.