In 2018, Jair Bolsonaro (PL) was elected with the promise not to demarcate any Indigenous Land in Brazil. Four years later, no territory was demarcated. But not only; violence against indigenous peoples has grown. In a recent report released by Cimi (Conselho Indigenista Missionário) on violence against indigenous peoples, with data collected between 2019 and 2022, 795 murders were recorded, 407 conflicts related to territorial rights, 1,133 possession invasions, illegal exploitation of resources natural resources and various damages to property.
“The Cimi report shows that Bolsonaro created – in his government – a script for indigenous genocide through deterritorialization, the deconstruction of rights, the devastation of the environment, the destruction of inspection structures, the generalized lack of assistance, the dehumanization and the search for the integration of peoples”, summarizes Roberto Liebgott, Cimi coordinator in Rio Grande do Sul.
:: Funai creates technical group to delimit the Indigenous Land of the Mura people, in Amazonas ::
For the indigenist, “the land invasions were programmatic”; the government acted to facilitate the access of prospectors, loggers and land grabbers to indigenous territories. The characteristics of violence – related to the abuse of power, racism, intolerance and murder – reveal a “dehumanization of indigenous people”, producing systematic violence, explains Roberto. He also highlights the lack of health care based on the weakening of primary care, that is, the absence of preventive actions, generating infant mortality, malnutrition and an environment of profound vulnerability for indigenous peoples.
In the same vein, Rose Padilha, member of the Cimi-Regional Western Amazon, points out that the numbers speak for themselves: “There were 309 cases of invasions, in 218 lands in 25 Brazilian states”. In her state, Acre, the missionary points out that there have been emblematic cases due to the failure of State protection. Among them, the increase in suicide among the Madijá people, which has occurred since 2015, a result of the marginality to which they are subjected by the lack of assistance from the public authorities.
The Madija people face a lack of access to documents; it is also a victim of extortion from local merchants, who withhold their social benefit cards, sell alcoholic beverages and expired food. Still, as people of recent contact, they do not speak Portuguese, they did not have access to school, nor didactic material in their language, that is, without any specific policy.
:: Yanomami Indigenous Land begins to recover with miners leaving ::
Cimi’s report revealed the presence of a new external agent in indigenous territories: organized crime. Rose comments on how factions affect the situation of Huni Kuin youth. With no prospects for the future, they end up getting involved with criminal factions. One of the cases diagnosed in the report is of a young man, murdered with 30 stab wounds, near the city of Jordão, in Acre.
Rose recalls yet another type of violence, which goes unseen: that of the carbon credit market. In Acre, the government authorized the constitution of the carbon market, which started to operate first in Indigenous Lands, affecting forms of use and continuity of territorial relations. The climate solutions of the green economy were consolidating in the state, violating the territorial rights guaranteed to indigenous peoples in the Constitution as “exclusive use of their lands”, points out Rose.
Recently, in the midst of the activities of the Amazon Dialogues, in Belém do Pará, 200 km away, three indigenous leaders of the Tembé People were shot on Monday, August 7, 2023. The leaders were preparing for a visit by the Council National Center for Human Rights in Tomé-Açu/PA. There is a conflict in the region between the indigenous people and the palm monocultures belonging to the BBF group (Brasil Bio Fuels), the largest company in the field in Latin America, which maintains operations in the surroundings with the frequent presence of armed security guards inside the indigenous territory. Colonial and capital violence against the bodies of people, waters and forests follows.
:: Diálogos Amazônicos was a ‘false image’, says mother of indigenous man shot ::
Mbya Guarani leaders from villages in the cities of Porto Alegre and Viamão, in Rio Grande do Sul, speak, in the video above, about the urgent need to demarcate indigenous lands for the survival of their peoples, their culture and for the preservation of the environment
And now, what changes in the new government?
At the end of the report, emphasis is placed on the initiative to set up a National Indigenous Truth Commission, as a way to identify and hold accountable actors who have historically been invading, killing and destroying the ways of life of indigenous peoples in Brazil. The theme was on the agenda of the Free Land Camp (ATL) in April this year. The Commission was forwarded as a proposal by deputy Célia Xakriabá (PSOL), welcomed by the President of FUNAI (National Foundation of Indigenous Peoples), Joênia Wapichana.
The federal government began its term by setting up a task force to end violence against the Yanomami people. In April, on the occasion of the ATL, Lula released R$ 12.3 million for FUNAI to support Yanomami communities. The president also signed the demarcation of six Indigenous Lands, out of the 13 identified by the Transition Working Group as ready to be demarcated. Finally, the return of the National Council for Indigenous Policy (CNPI) and the Management Committee of the National Policy for Territorial and Environmental Management of Indigenous Lands (PNGATI).
There are great expectations of progress in the protection and enforcement of the rights of indigenous peoples in Brazil with the current government. However, as Liebgott recalls, there is still a long way to go to break with the programmatic cycles of violence. The government needs to rebuild the entire dismantled indigenous policy, urgently advance in the demarcation and removal processes, he explains.
:: Vale do Javari agonizes over the same conflicts that killed Bruno and Dom a year ago ::
Policies such as FUNAI’s Normative Instruction No. 01/2021, which authorized the association between indigenous and non-indigenous people in land leasing, even if revoked, created numerous internal and external conflicts in the communities. Removing these leases from territories, which under the Instruction were carried out in good faith, will require a major effort by the government.
The demarcation of territories, access to public policies, investments in indigenous health and education, social protection for those living in areas of recovery and encampments will be key measures for reducing the level of violence. “Indigenous policy should not be a make-believe, it cannot be seen as an ornament, adornment or painting to be shown within the scope of the government. There are people, communities, peoples who suffer daily and claim for their constitutional rights. Therefore, demarcation now, and not the time frame!”, argues Liebgott.
The National Congress, with a conservative majority, has also become an obstacle to breaking with violence against indigenous peoples. Last week, the bill on the Temporal Framework (PL n.º 2903/2023) walked through the Senate, with opinions favorable to the thesis. Likewise, Bill No. 191/2020, which authorizes mining in Indigenous Lands, is still in effect. And in the STF (Federal Supreme Court), in slow steps, the judgment of the Temporal Framework (RE 1017365).
The new winds blowing from the government in Brasilia are more favorable to the indigenous cause. Overcoming the backlash policies implemented by the previous government will be one of the priority tasks. In addition, it is necessary to advance in the demarcation of indigenous lands, expanding the budget for public policies in them. And educate the country for an intercultural dialogue. As we can see, there is still a long way to go to eradicate more than 500 years of violence against indigenous peoples in Brazil.
* Amigas da Terra (ATBr) is an organization that works to build the fight for environmental justice. Biweekly on Mondays, the entity publishes, in Brasil de Fato, articles on economic and climate justice, food sovereignty, biodiversity, internationalist solidarity and against oppression.
** This is an opinion piece. The author’s view does not necessarily express the editorial line of the newspaper Brasil de Fato.
Editing: Rodrigo Chagas