Government uses indigenous crisis to act without bidding and increase funds

Government uses indigenous crisis to act without bidding and increase funds


More than a year after the start of aid actions by the government of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT) for the inhabitants of the Yanomami indigenous land, millions of dollars in resources are being allocated to combating malnutrition, but without bidding. On March 13, R$185 million was allocated by the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples to an air taxi company to deliver basic food baskets to villages.

The scenario that the Lula government pointed out as a malnutrition crisis and used to blame former president Jair Bolsonaro has been occurring at least since the 2000s, as shown by a survey of People’s Gazette. Furthermore, even if it had only been identified at the beginning of 2023, as claimed by the PT government, there was more than a year for tenders to be carried out, but the case is still treated as an emergency. For now, those who are taking food to the indigenous people are the Armed Forces.

The exemption from bidding was justified by the ministry as a “necessity” given the situation of the Yanomami. In response to questions from the People’s Gazettethe ministry pointed out that “the hiring [da empresa de táxi aéreo] emerged as the most expeditious and tangible way to safeguard rights”.

The amount allocated to the air taxi company, which will distribute basic food baskets to indigenous people, corresponds to 40.6% of the R$455 million sent to the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples through Provisional Measure (MP) 1,209/2024, published on March 12th. In other words, the amount was reserved (committed) to the company the day after the publication of the MP.

According to the Minister of the Civil House, Rui Costa, the R$185 million will allow nine thousand basic food baskets to be delivered to the Yanomami through the contracted company. Therefore, the logistics of delivering each basic food basket transported by the company will cost just over R$20,000.

The distribution of basic food baskets has been one of the pillars of the government’s actions in the face of the humanitarian crisis identified among the Yanomami living in Roraima and Amazonas. Since the beginning of the Lula government’s actions, the Ministry of Defense has been at the forefront of this logistics. However, in January, the Minister of the Civil House, Rui Costa, announced that this work would only continue until March. From April onwards, this operation will be made possible by a new contract.

“We still have food stockpiled that the Armed Forces will distribute. This logistical support will be based on a new contract”, said the minister in January.

In other words, the idea of ​​removing the Armed Forces from the operation of delivering basic food baskets came from the Executive and not from the military. But it is still unclear whether civilian companies will be able to carry out the task.

There are a number of difficulties: military aircraft can land in any area where there are technical conditions. Civil aircraft are reluctant to land on unofficial (non-approved) runways for reasons of security coverage.

The airstrip at the main base in the region, Surucucu, was built at a height, which makes landing cargo planes very risky. Because of this, the Armed Forces are launching parachute baskets over the base today. They are then collected and taken by helicopter in smaller portions to the villages.

Furthermore, to maintain the current pace of basket delivery, the private company will need to have several aircraft, as when one goes for maintenance, it has to be immediately replaced by another.

The government has not yet announced how it intends to overcome this type of difficulty. Furthermore, it plans to deliver 9,000 baskets over an undisclosed period of time, while the Armed Forces delivered 15,000 between January and March.

The Ministry of Indigenous Peoples informed in a statement that the contract for the delivery of basic food baskets involves air logistics between Boa Vista (RR) and two points designated as storage points (not specified) within the Yanomami Indigenous Land, both located in Roraima. From there, the supplies are sent by plane or helicopter to their final destination in the villages. The contract also involves the transport of fuel to the two storage stations, from where the smaller aircraft will depart for final delivery.

Government claims “emergency situation” to waive bidding

The indigenous crisis was one of the first highlighted by the Lula government after taking office in January 2023, and ended up being used to accuse former president Jair Bolsonaro (PL) of mismanagement. Even during Bolsonaro’s term, members of left-wing parties and environmental NGOs said that the then president was committing genocide against the Yanomami people.

Faced with data indicating deaths of Yanomami indigenous people due to malnutrition, malaria and other diseases, the Lula government created a task force to also act against illegal mining and deforestation within Yanomami indigenous land. In 2023 alone, the government claims to have invested around R$1 billion in actions to combat the indigenous crisis.

Even so, in the first year of the Lula government, 363 Yanomami deaths were recorded, 5.8% more than what was recorded in 2022, the last year of the Bolsonaro government, when 343 Yanomami indigenous people died.

Given these data, the government announced, in January 2024, an additional R$1.2 billion to face the crisis. At the time, Lula compared the fight against illegal mining on indigenous lands to a “war”. The appeal was implemented, in March, by Provisional Measure 1,209.

In addition to the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples, led by Sonia Guajajara, seven other departments will be able to allocate resources for actions in the Yanomami indigenous territory: Ministries of Justice and Public Security; Environment and Climate Change; Agrarian Development and Family Farming; Defense; Development and Social Assistance, Family and Fight against Hunger; Fisheries and Aquaculture; and Human Rights and Citizenship.

Despite the investments and attention given by the government, one year after the first emergency actions, the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples continues to claim that the situation remains to waive the bidding process, especially in the case of contracting the air taxi company. In this process, the department used a provision in Law 14,133/2021 that provides for the exemption from bidding in cases of emergency or public calamity.

In a statement, the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples reported that the bidding exemption was conducted in partnership with the Ministry of Management and Innovation and that it dealt with the hiring of a company specialized in fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft rental services. There are, however, no further specifications regarding the quantity or models of the aircraft.

The justification, however, contradicts the government itself. In a press conference after the meeting held in January, minister Rui Costa signaled that the government would leave emergency actions aside.

“We are going to migrate from a set of emergency actions [feitas em 2023] for structural actions in 2024. This includes in the area of ​​territorial control and public security”, stated the minister at the time.

Provisional measure increases the budget of the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples by more than 50%

With the issuance of Provisional Measure (MP) 1,209/2024, the budget of the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples for 2024 increased from R$849.7 million to R$1.305 billion. This means a 53% increase in resources for the folder. The allocation of extraordinary resources, however, does not have detailed specifications.

The Ministry of Indigenous Peoples did not specify what will be done, when questioned by the People’s Gazette. The press office of the Civil House only indicated access to the Federal Budget Panel for “detailed information on the allocation of resources and execution”.

In the panel, it is only possible to verify that the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples will have resources for policy management actions for indigenous peoples, for land regularization, for the protection and management of indigenous territories and for multi-ethnic-cultural and social rights of indigenous peoples.

The expenses with the air taxi to distribute basic food baskets, worth R$185 million, for example, are related to the management of policies for indigenous peoples. For this action, the provisional measure provided for the allocation of R$210 million in total. Therefore, almost 90% of the MP’s resources for managing policies for indigenous peoples have already been committed.

This survey was carried out by the People’s Gazette through consultations on the Transparency Portal, where it is possible to access commitment notes and information about companies contracted by the federal government.


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