Brazil's new president works to reverse Amazon deforestation

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Shaking a traditional rattle, Brazil’s incoming head of Indigenous affairs recently walked through every corner of the agency’s headquarters — even its

coffee room — as she invoked help from ancestors during a ritual cleansing. The ritual carried extra meaning for Joenia Wapichana, Brazil’s first Indigenous woman to command

the agency charged with protecting the Amazon rainforest and its people. Once she is sworn in next month under newly inaugurated President Luiz Inácio da Silva, Wapichana promises

to clean house at an agency that critics say has allowed the Amazon's resources to be exploited at the expense of the environment. As Wapichana performed the ritual,

Indigenous people and government officials enthusiastically chanted “Yoohoo! Funai is ours!’’ — a reference to the agency she will lead. Environmentalists, Indigenous people

and voters sympathetic to their causes were important to Lula's narrow victory over former President Jair Bolsonaro. Now Lula is seeking to fulfill campaign pledges he made to

them on a wide range of issues, from expanding Indigenous territories to halting a surge in illegal deforestation. To carry out these goals, Lula is appointing well-known

environmentalists and Indigenous people to key positions at Funai and other agencies that Bolsonaro had filled with allies of agribusiness and military officers. In Lula's

previous two terms as president, he had a mixed record on environmental and Indigenous issues. And he is certain to face obstacles from pro-Bolsonaro state governors who still

control swaths of the Amazon. But experts say Lula is taking the right first steps.