Brazil Recognizes There’s Still a Long Way to Integrate Indians in Society

The executive secretary of Brazil’s Ministry of Justice, Luiz Paulo Barreto, participated, Tuesday, March 21, in the seventh meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS) to form a consensus over the American Declaration of Indian Rights.

At the meeting, which was held in the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Relations, in Brasí­lia, Barreto, as representative of the Brazilian government, said that there are protection laws capable of ensuring the effective occupation of lands by the Indians.

"But we still have to advance much further in the social inclusion of indigenous communities, in order to avert conflicts," the secretary affirmed.

"The next step is to guarantee self-sufficiency on Indian lands: independence of government resources, so that, on their own land, Indians can derive their own subsistence and develop, developing their culture, too."

Barreto hopes that this seventh meeting of the OAS can reach a consensus on the items over which differences of opinion still exist. Moreover, that the debates evolve to the point where the declaration can be terminated by the end of this year.

The American Declaration of Indian Rights will reiterate commitments endorsed by the member States of the United Nations and the OAS. This is the first time that Brazil is hosting a meeting to discuss the document. The meeting will run through Saturday, March 25.

Dialogue

Indigenous peoples need dialogue. That is the opinion of ambassador Juan Leon Alvarado, president of the work group in charge of drafting the American Declaration of Indian Rights.

At the opening of the seventh meeting to form a consensus on the items to be included in the declaration, he said that there are countries that avoid engaging in a dialogue with indigenous peoples, and vice-versa.

"It is a chance to talk and, most of all, it reassures us that we must proceed slowly with the declaration, because, if we work hastily, some rights may be omitted," he commented.

The deputy secretary-general of the Organization of American States, Albert Ramdin, said that a 2005 World Bank study found that Indians constitute 10% of the population of the Americas and are the most underprivileged group in Latin America.

"In Bolivia and Guatemala, for example, over half the entire population is poor, but nearly three-quarters of the indigenous population is poor. Indigenous peoples have been excluded for too long from the political and economic life of our societies.

"This historical error is beginning to be corrected, inasmuch as traditionally marginalized groups are beginning to participate in the political process, making themselves heard and demanding changes," he observed.

Ramdin also urged the delegates to "discover solutions to the pending issues and proceed with exactitude, bearing in mind the final draft of the declaration."

Agência Brasil

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