(Brasilia) Thousands of Brazilian indigenous peoples, feathered headgear and traditional clothing, gathered in the heart of Brazil on Monday for a week of mobilization against the policies of President Jair Bolsonaro, whom they accuse of threatening their ancestral lands.
Posted on Aug 23, 2021 at 4:11 pm
Valéria PACHÉCO Agence France-Presse
On Sunday, at the call of the Coordination of the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (Apib), the indigenous people began to set up a tent camp of the “fight for life”, in which until the end of the week “demonstrations against Bolsonaro’s anti-indigenous policies.
On Monday morning, members of many ethnic groups in shimmering outfits, many with painted bodies, gathered in peace near the capital’s modernist seats of power – the Presidency, Congress and the Supreme Court – singing and dancing. The police presence is weak, said an AFP journalist.
Last June, around 100 locals clashed with the police during demonstrations by locals for their country in Brasilia. Three demonstrators were injured, as were three police officers, the latter with arrows.
The natives – who were 4,000 late Monday morning, of 117 different ethnicities, according to Apib – want to put pressure on various bills by Sunday that they believe seriously threaten their rights and their ancestral lands, and in particular a crucial ruling by the Supreme Court.
At the center of the concerns is Law No. 490 (PL-490), which is endorsed by the right-wing president’s government and his allies and must be submitted to Congress.
The most controversial issue is the “temporal thesis,” which only recognizes the ancestral lands occupied by the indigenous peoples when the 1988 constitution was promulgated.
However, many tribes were displaced during the upheaval in Brazilian history, particularly under the military regime (1964-85). Back on their land, they are demanding the protection of the status granted to the reserves, which the powerful Brazilian agricultural lobby has refused to accept.
Wednesday will be a crucial day. The indigenous people have planned to march before the Supreme Court when it begins to decide whether the “temporal thesis” applies to a reservation in the state of Santa Catarina (South). This ruling will affect dozens of legal disputes over the years.
This issue is “important because various sectors in Brazil are trying to prevent the delimitation of indigenous land, even where they have already been,” said Juliana de Paula Batista, lawyer for the Socio-Environmental Institute (ISA), which defends the rights from indigenous peoples.
“If the Supreme Court accepts the ‘temporal thesis’, it could legitimize violence against indigenous peoples and exacerbate conflicts in the Amazon rainforest and other regions,” warned Francisco Cali Tzay, United Nations special rapporteur on indigenous peoples’ rights.
“Bill of Invasions”
Jair Bolsonaro also supports a bill that will open indigenous land, already badly affected by deforestation and illegal mining, to the exploitation of natural resources.
These lands are mainly located in nine Amazonian states of Brazil and are essential for the preservation of the environment.
Two other bills are denounced by the indigenous people and environmentalists as the “PL of Invasions”. One advocates the regularization of illegal land occupation by gold washers, lumberjacks or breeders.
The approximately 900,000 indigenous people of Brazil represent 0.5% of the 212 million inhabitants and their land comprises 13% of the territory of the vast country.
Since Jair Bolsonaro came to power in Brasilia, they have not stopped denouncing invasions into their country – which have also fueled the spread of COVID-19 among populations with fragile immune systems – as well as violence and violations of their rights.
Last January, the Kazik Raoni Matuktire, the emblematic defender of the Amazon rainforest, called on the International Criminal Court to investigate Bolsonaro, who is accused of “persecuting” indigenous peoples, for “crimes against humanity” Habitat destroyed and their basic rights violated.