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Brazil: Indigenous peoples face emergency

Declaration by Committee on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

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In early September, as the situation of Brazil’s Indigenous peoples worsened, Indigenous organizations representing 305 different communities launched an emergency appeal. This was relayed at a meeting on 15 September, between CRIP, the NGO Committee on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and President Syratã of the Pataxó Council of Caciques from the territories of South Bahia, NE Brazil.

The Pataxó were one of the main groups promoting the CRIP declaration. Video: Mongabay, 14 July 2022

Drawn up before the first round of Brazil’s presidential election on 2 October, the appeal is still more relevant and important, as the country goes into a tense second round, with Bolsonaro trailing Lula, but by a smaller margin than expected.

The declaration stated:

Since 2018, President Bolsonaro’s government has defunded or paralyzed all of Brazil’s institutional mechanisms for monitoring illegal mining and deforestation and protecting the Rights of its Indigenous Peoples. The motivation for this government’s controversial political project is revealed by two parliamentary bills, (PL490 and PL191) which, if passed by the Senate will make illegal all settled indigenous Land Reclaims since 1988, and open up all their lands to huge industrial projects.

The genocidal and ecocidal effects of these laws are unambiguously revealed in the poisoned rivers and lands of Indigenous peoples, forcing them to beg and seek non-traditional medicine in the peripheries of nearby cities, where according to President Bolsonaro, they can “become human and claim their right to citizenship”.

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In this context, Indigenous peoples have peacefully entered their traditional lands to accelerate the process of demarcation by the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI), slowed by bureaucracy and political interests, and Self-Demarcated their boundaries. The illegitimate ‘squatter’ farmers resist by hiring mercenaries (recently revealed by Bahia state journalists to include Military Police), to intimidate and even murder. This is expected to increase with the approach of the forthcoming Presidential and Parliamentary elections, as the Bolsonaro government seeks to present and justify its political, social and economic vision.

CRIP pledged its solidarity to the Pataxó Council of Caciques, and their letter of requests to the Brazilian government, which includes requests for a guarantee of their territorial rights, a full criminal investigation into the murder of the Pataxó child, Gustavo Silva da Conceição, and the assurance of security in their villages under impartial supervision of State institutions and the Council of Chiefs.

Alice Pataxó addresses the COP26 Climate Conference in Glasgow. Video: REC’n’Play, 2 November 2021

UN member states were strongly urged ‘to reaffirm and recommit to fulfilling the objectives and commitments outlined in the UNDRIP, and to bring international pressure to bear and take urgent action to protect the Indigenous peoples in Brazil who are facing grave and imminent danger.’


Main image: ‘I am the root and the rain of Monte Pascoal. I care for your future. No to PL490.’ Pataxó demonstrators at Monte Pascoal National Park, Bahía.