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Brazil Jair Bolsonaro Environment Indigenous peoples

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'We're fighting for our right to exist!': indigenous leaders gather in Brasilia

Native Brazilians take part in a protest to defend indigenous land and cultural rights that they say are threatened by the right-wing government. Reuters

Native leaders in Brazil are not happy with the policies of the country's far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro. They are particularly worried about land rights and the role of their communities in the protection of the environment.

On Thursday, over 150 indigenous leaders met Brazilian MPs in the capital, Brasilia.

The discussions in the Chamber of Deputies came on the second day of the Free Land Encampment, an annual three-day protest by indigenous groups which is held in Brazil's capital.

Indigenous leaders from several regions attended the congressional hearing.

More than 1,000 native people set up tents on the lawn of the congressional building on Wednesday and began demonstrating against Bolsonaro's vow to encourage the expansion of mining and industrial farming in protected indigenous areas.

"What is being disputed is the land," said Sonia Guajajara, an indigenous leader and former vice-presidential candidate.

Watch France 24's report on the indigenous people's protests

"We're fighting for our right to exist!"

Bolsonaro "wants to give the indigenous territories to the United States, to foreigners, to explore our natural resources. We fight not only for our rights, our constitutional rights, but for our right to exist," Guajajara told The Associated Press news agency on Wednesday night.

"Where indigenous lands are demarcated, registered and controlled by the peoples, these territories are preserved and cared for," said Cleber Cesar Buzatto, secretary general of the Indigenous Missionary Council, a rights group linked to the Roman Catholic Church.

Soon after being sworn in on 1 January, Bolsonaro transferred the authority for designating indigenous land and granting environmental licenses for businesses on indigenous reserves from the government's indigenous affairs agency to the Agriculture Ministry.