April, a Whole Month of Indian Protests in Brazil

    April in Brazil will be marked by several indigenous events and protests. In addition to criticizing the absence and inefficiency of specific public policies, these events will propose actions to be taken by the Brazilian State in relation to indigenous peoples.

    Some of these proposals have been presented already in the “April Manifesto” launched yesterday in Brasí­lia.


    The Manifesto reports that the number of land areas declared as traditionally occupied by indigenous people during the Lula administration is the lowest since the end of the military regime.


    Thirteen indigenous lands have been declared as such in the two years of the Lula administration, while during the Fernando Henrique Cardoso administration, which was also indifferent to the issue, 14 indigenous lands were declared as traditionally occupied by indigenous people a year in average.


    “Indigenous lands became political bargaining items in conversations with the governors of some states,” said the organizations gathered in the Forum in Defense of Indigenous Rights which signed the text.


    The document also mentions the return of the military to the forums where the indigenous policy is defined and the interference of known “large landowners who disguise their projects as agribusiness-related, but are intent on putting an end to the demarcation of indigenous lands.


    “Soybean producer Blairo Maggi, Governor of the state of Mato Grosso, requested the federal administration to declare an illegal and immoral moratorium on further demarcations in the State managed by him and, surprisingly, his request was granted.


    “The demarcation of indigenous lands in the state of Santa Catarina was conditioned to the opinion of an also illegal state-level commission.”


    The National Foundation for Indigenous People (Funai) was also criticized. “The agency officially in charge of indigenous affairs declared, through its president, Mércio Gomes, the ‘end of all demarcation procedures’ with a deadline coinciding with the end of the term of the current federal administration.


    “At the same time, Funai is progressively reducing the number of Technical Groups assigned to identify indigenous lands and refuses to recognize areas unduly excluded from already demarcated lands.”


    During the ceremony in which the manifesto was launched, indigenous leader Jecinaldo Barbosa, from the Coordinating Board of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon Region (Coiab), stressed that the lack of a clear policy for indigenous people “disorganizes” the government.


    “For this reason, although funds are available for health care purposes, for example, the problem remains,” he said.


    The document proposes the following points for structuring a consistent indigenous policy:


    – The creation of a National Indigenous Policy Council with the assured participation of indigenous people and civil society in it.


    – Congress should reject constitutional amendment bill n. 38/1999 and bill n. 188/2004 proposed by senators Mozarildo Cavalcante and Delcí­dio Amaral, as well as other legislative initiatives aimed at obstructing or preventing the recognition of indigenous territories. It also proposes that indigenous rights be regulated in the Charter of Indigenous Societies and not isolatedly.


    – The minister of Justice should declare immediately that the following lands should be exclusively occupied by indigenous people: 1. Morro dos Cavalos (state of Santa Catarina), 2. Las Casas (state of Pará), 3. Aldeia Condá (state of Santa Catarina), 4. Toldo Imbu (state of Santa Catarina), 5. Piaçaguera (state of São Paulo), 6. Toldo Pinhal (state of Santa Catarina), 7. Yvy-Katu (state of Mato Grosso do Sul), 8. Cachoeirinha (state of Mato Grosso do Sul), 9. Batelão (state of Mato Grosso) and 10. Balaio (state of Amazonas). The Raposa/Serra do Sol indigenous land should have its bounds officially confirmed as a continuous area.


    – Legal assurance of the mechanisms provided for in the Convention on Biological Diversity for a fair and equitable sharing of benefits and prior and informed approval for accessing the knowledge of indigenous peoples and local populations.


    Amnesty International


    Also during the ceremony in which the manifesto was launched to the press, the vice president of Cimi, Saulo Done, stressed the harmony between the proposals made by the Forum and those presented by Amnesty International (AI), which issued a report March 30 called “Foreigners in our own country.”


    The recommendations of Amnesty International include the restructuring of the official indigenous agency and compliance with the commitments made during Lula’s electoral campaign.


    They also indicate that “fair and quick solutions to unsettled claims on indigenous lands could have a high impact in reducing poverty and violence levels and other abuses against indigenous peoples. This issue should be given priority immediately by the Brazilian Government as a constitutional obligation.”


    Focused on violations of the human rights of Brazilian indigenous peoples, the AI report highlights two main realities: the fact that indigenous groups have been deprived of their lands – which have been illegally occupied by farmers, not demarcated, or appropriated by the armed forces – and the conflicts and murders affecting the Cinta Larga in Rondônia, the Xucuru in Pernambuco, the Guarani- Kaiowá in Mato Grosso do Sul and the Kaingang in Rio Grande do Sul.


    Camp


    The activities of the “Indigenous April” will end with a large camp at the Esplanada dos Ministérios (the area where all ministries are located) in Brasí­lia. Five typical indigenous huts will be built there for plenary meetings, workshops and seminars.


    The camp will remain there from April 24 to May 3, when it will join a march of rural workers organized by Via Campesina.


    Cimi – Indianist Missionary Council
    www.cimi.org.br

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