Over 70 Indians Elected as Mayors and City Council Members in Brazil

Mayor of São Gabriel da Cachoeira, Pedro Garcia Brazil's latest municipal elections, on October 5, resulted in a growing number of indigenous persons chosen as mayors and city council members. Six indigenous were elected mayor of a city (against 3 in the 2004 elections), four vice-mayors were elected, as were, at least, 61 city council members, according to Brazil's Indianist Missionary Council (CIMI). They will take their positions in January 2009.

The indigenous mayors of São Gabriel da Cachoeira and Barreirinha (Pedro Garcia of the Workers Party – PT – and of the Tariano people and Mecias Sateré Mawé of the PMN respectively), are the first indigenous mayors for the state of Amazonas.

Though Mecias was actually supposed to become mayor after the 2004 elections, after a court decided to bar the victorious candidate Gilvan Borges. However, Borges managed to get the decision overruled and took the mayor seat.

Pedro Garcia's victory is historical. Though São Gabriel da Cachoeira is the most indigenous municipality in Brazil (the only one with three indigenous languages as co-official languages), it never had an indigenous mayor.

Raposa Serra do Sol

In the very much contested area of Raposa Serra do Sol in the State of Roraima, two indigenous were elected mayor. Eliésio Cavalcanti (PT) of the Makuxi people in Uiramutã and Orlando Oliveira Justino (PSDB), also Makuxi, was re-elected in Normandia.

In the same region, the controversial rice farmer Paulo Cezar Quartiero was not re-elected as mayor of the municipality of Pacaraima. Quartiero is the prime organizer of the opposition to the continuous demarcation of the indigenous land in that region.

"The winner is also against it, an ally of the state government, but at least he is someone we can dialogue with," commented Jacir de Sousa, of the CIR (Conselho Indí­gena de Roraima – Roraima's Indigenous Council).

Xakriabá

The two other indigenous mayors were elected in municipalities that for some years now have had a strong presence of indigenous in representative positions. In São João das Missões in the state of Minas Gerais, José Nunes (PT) of the Xakriabá people was re-elected with 64,99% of the votes. Six of the nine disputed seats in the city council were won by Xakriabá (4 in 2004).

"I think this victory is the result of our work and the support of our people, that is the majority of the population. And of the non-Indians 40% voted for us. We have worked to create harmony," José Nunes commented.

Despite the positive result, the electoral process had been very tense in the city. On August 10, the young Xakriabá Edson Dourado Leite, supporter of José Nunes was stabbed to death. "I don't think there is hatred between Indians and non-Indians. It is only a faction that commits these crimes," according to Nunes. 

Potiguara Victory

In the state of Paraí­ba, Paulo Sérgio (PMDB) of the Potiguara was re-elected in the city of Marcação. Three indigenous council members were elected. In Baí­a da Traição, another municipality in the Potiguara region, Adelson Deolindo da Silva will be vice-mayor and three council members are indigenous, all Potiguara.

During 12 of the last 16 years Baí­a da Traição was administered by Potiguara representatives. It was the first city to elect an indigenous mayor: Nancy Potiguara, in 1992.

"Many problems for the indigenous communities occur in at the municipality level. That's why we are organizing ourselves more and more for party politics, to become mayors and council members," says Ceiça Pitaguary, of Apoinme (Articulation of the Indigenous people of the northeast, Minas Gerais and Espí­rito Santo.

"Our candidates must represent the majority of our communities and, once elected, they must always execute their mandates in connection to our people."

Over all, over the years, 13 indigenous were elected or re-elected mayors in 8 different cities.

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