The president of Brazil’s National Indian Foundation (FUNAI), Mércio Gomes, used the term " preposterous" to characterize the United Nations (UN) report on racism and discrimination in Brazil, which was released last week.
The UN rapporteur, Doudou Diène, visited Brazil last year to gather information on this issue and, upon his return to the United States, criticized the FUNAI severely. According to Diène, Indians have a strained relationship with the FUNAI and feel abandoned and persecuted by government officials.
"This rapporteur was with me in October. We conversed, and I portrayed the Brazilian Indian situation, the difficulties. Afterwards, he left here and went to speak to non-governmental organizations and changed his opinion entirely. He didn’t converse with Indians, and then he came up with this preposterous report," Gomes said.
In a Radio Nacional interview, Wednesday, March 22, the FUNAI president refuted accusations made by the UN rapporteur, who went so far as to claim that the Brazilian government tried to alter portions of the report.
"It is not true that the Brazilian government tried to change the text. The report is a preliminary one he presented to the Brazilian mission at the UN. The mission had the right to refute it, as they did. We refuted what he said, because he reported lies."
In the FUNAI president’s opinion, Diène was arrogant in using the report to tell Brazil how to decide these matters. Gomes made this comment with reference to Diène’s suggestion that the Brazilian government nominate an Indian as head of the FUNAI.
"That is a government decision. One day, to be sure, an Indian will be president of the FUNAI, but not because a UN rapporteur thinks that’s how it should be," he observed.
For the minister of Foreign Relations, Celso Amorim, it is natural for a UN rapporteur to voice criticisms with respect to the topic he or she is investigating, no matter what the country. Amorim said that Brazil has no problem in accepting criticisms and treats all UN reports with transparency.
"Unlike many developed countries that are reluctant to have reports done on the situation of immigrants, for example. What is necessary, now, is to ascertain the degree of the criticisms. The UN collegiate bodies will evaluate whether they are fair or exaggerated. And we will make our case," he said.
Amorim acknowledged that problems exist in Brazil in the area investigated by the UN rapporteur, but he pointed out that the Brazilian government has done "a great deal to improve this situation."
In the minister’s view, there is also a lot that remains to be done for the country to achieve a true racial democracy. "When one sees a Brazilian delegation abroad, it is hard to believe that there is racial democracy. We have a lot left to do," the minister admitted.