Updated 05:38 PM EDT, Fri, Jun 05, 2020

Brazil Lawmaker Fernando Furtado Named Racist of the Year for Anti-Gay Slur Against Indigenous People in the Amazon

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A Brazilian lawmaker was named as the winner of the Racist of the Year Award for his anti-gay slurs against indigenous people in the Amazon.

Survival International announced on Wednesday that Fernando Furtado, a deputy in the Brazilian state of Maranhão, is the award's recipient for his speech in July, in which he remarked that Amazonian Indians should be left to starve and called them "a bunch of little gays." Furtado was forced to formally retract his statement following the Brazilian public's uproar.

"They don't know how to plant rice, so let them die of hunger in poverty, that's the best thing, because they don't know how to work," Furtado said of the indigenous Brazilians while addressing an audience of loggers and ranchers, as quoted by Survival International's website.

The politician's speech was delivered to a settler community in São João do Caru, which is near the border of the Awá indigenous territory, the news outlet wrote. Numerous fires caused by the loggers threaten the area, effectively harming the lives of several hundred Awá individuals. This includes a group of uncontacted people, who are one of the most vulnerable civilizations on Earth.

The Guardian wrote that the Awá tribe has been pushed to the verge of extinction because of deforestation and conflicts with ranchers. A series of fires, with the latest of them in October, have been set by illegal loggers in the Maranhão region. For a month, the flames burned through the main indigenous territories, including those of the Awá people's.

Furtado was the second Brazilian politician to have received Survival International's award. Fellow Brazilian elected official Luis Carlos Heinze was named Racist of the Year in 2014 for saying that "the government ... is in bed with the blacks, the Indians, the gays, the lesbians, all the losers," Survival International noted.

"These loathsome remarks indicate the extent of racism against tribal peoples among some of the most powerful people in Brazilian society. It's important that people both within and outside of Brazil are aware of the prevalence of these attitudes because they underpin the genocidal onslaught of violence that Brazilian tribes face today. That's why we've decided to make Furtado Racist of the Year 2015," Survival director Stephen Corry said on the organization's website.

A strong resentment towards the tribes in the Maranhão region erupted after a government operation drove out loggers from the Awá reserve - raised by a high-profile campaign by Survival International. It's highly likely that the arson attacks on the local Awá people were a result of this hatred, the NGO's page noted.

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