The president of Brazil’s environmental protection agency (IBAMA) caused an uproar in July when he told an Australian TV crew that his agency’s role “is not caring for the environment, but to minimize the impact.” Later, when he thought the cameras were off he said that Brazilian Indigenous peoples would suffer the same fate as Australia’s Aboriginal peoples.
He made these remarks while speaking with Allison Langdon of the Australian “60 Minutes” program about the controversial Belo Monte dam, which he had approved despite widespread protests from environmentalists and Indigenous groups. His predecessor had resigned his office instead of signing the license allowing the dam to proceed.
The Belo Monte dam is backed by Brazilian government energy companies. It is a $16 billion hydroelectric project that will block the Xingu river, and swamp more than 40,000 hectares of forest and displace upwards of 16,000 people, including Indigenous tribes.
Unaware that he was still belng taped, he implied that Brazil does not respect its Indigenous population.
“You have the natives there and do not respect them,” he said to Langdon.
“So you going to do with the Indians the same as we did with the Aborigines?” she asked.
“Yes, yes,” said Trennepohl.
In the 19th century, Australian colonists ran a campaign to exterminate Aboriginal peoples. Settlers paid bounties to trackers who captured and killed Aborigines. Discriminatory policies against Aboriginals continued into the mid-20th century and today the Aboriginal peoples are among the poorest and least educated of any Australians.