Indigenous activist in Brazil says accused of 'slandering' Bolsonaro

Jair Bolsonaro wearing a suit and tie: Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro faces growing criticism over his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, which he has repeatedly played down © EVARISTO SA Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro faces growing criticism over his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, which he has repeatedly played down

A leading indigenous activist in Brazil said she has been summoned to appear before police after being accused of "slandering" the government of far-right president Jair Bolsonaro. 

Other Bolsonaro critics have been interrogated by police in recent months, part of what one newspaper called an "intimidation campaign" by the government.

"I was summoned by the Federal Police in connection with an investigation into the Maraca series," Sonia Guajajara, the coordinator of the Association of Brazil's Indigenous Peoples (APIB), said Friday on Twitter.

a person wearing a costume: Brazilian indigenous leader Sonia Guajajara (R), seen at a news conference in Paris in 2019, says she is being investigated by police for allegedly 'slandering' the government over its coronavirus policies © Thomas SAMSON Brazilian indigenous leader Sonia Guajajara (R), seen at a news conference in Paris in 2019, says she is being investigated by police for allegedly 'slandering' the government over its coronavirus policies

The Maraca documentary series strongly criticizes government policies toward indigenous peoples -- particularly Bolsonaro's widely assailed handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The series, available on the APIB website, is part of a pro-indigenous people campaign supported by some 200 celebrities.

"The persecution by this government is unacceptable and absurd. They will not silence us," added Guajajara, who was a socialist candidate for vice president in 2018.

- Accusations of 'genocide' -

The legal complaint against the group -- accusing it of "a campaign of slander and defamation" -- was brought by FUNAI, the Brazilian government's indigenous affairs office.

In the complaint, published by news site G1, FUNAI president Marcelo Augusto Xavier da Silva says the series has spread "inaccurate and tendentious information, accusing the government of having abandoned the indigenous peoples" during the pandemic.

In a statement to AFP, FUNAI said that "the investigation of alleged crimes" is in the interest "of all Brazilian citizens, indigenous or not."

The APIB denounced the inquiry as "an attempt to criminalize the indigenous movement" and accused the government of a "genocide" of native peoples during the pandemic, which it estimates has claimed the lives of more than 1,000 native people.

Bolsonaro critics who have been questioned by police in recent months include YouTube celebrity Felipe Neto, who on Friday tweeted his support for Guajajara. 

"This affair is so scandalous, so absurd, that one can easily see that the Federal Police are being used as an organ of political persecution," he said.

Neto has accused Bolsonaro of "genocide" for his handling of the pandemic, which has left more than 400,000 people dead in Brazil.

Brazilian police have also investigated former cabinet minister Ciro Gomes for calling Bolsonaro a "thief" and sociologist Tiago Costa Rodrigues for calling him a "liar." 

Rights activists say Brazil has seen a surge in legal and extralegal moves to stifle dissent.

Bolsonaro has come under mounting criticism for his handling of the pandemic after repeatedly minimizing it and mocking efforts to contain it.  

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Indigenous activist in Brazil says accused of 'slandering' Bolsonaro