Brazil’s Forum in Defense of Indigenous Rights (FDDI) issued, yesterday, its “April Manifesto,” criticizing Lula’s Administration in terms of Indian policies.
The text refers to “slowness” in the process of demarcation of indigenous territories and associates this situation with the violation of indigenous rights.
The document also presents a list of demands aimed at solving these problems. The suggestions include the creation of the National Indian Policy Council.
In addition, the manifesto urges the Minister of Justice, Márcio Thomaz Bastos, to proclaim immediately Indian ownership of 10 areas located in the states of Santa Catarina, São Paulo, Pará, Amazonas, Mato Grosso do Sul, and Mato Grosso.
In the manifesto, the government is characterized as “anti-Indian.” “In the absence of a new Indian policy, interests opposed to the indigenous peoples occupied the vacuum.
“Indian policy was remilitarized. The Institutional Security Cabinet assumed unprecedented importance in Indian affairs. Old and outdated concepts of national security and sovereignty, no matter how mistaken, were applied once again, with intensity.
“Now not only by segments of the military but also by the most reactionary rural oligarchies, who used them to defend their most immediate interests,” the document says.
In the view of the FDDI, the pace of the proceedings to legalize indigenous territories was slowed under the current Administration and subordinated to an ethnocentric and genocidal neoliberal development project, the governability of which is being negotiated with sectors of the Brazilian rural oligarchy, the same class that blocked peace and democracy in the countryside.”
The text points out that the number of territories declared to be Indian property during Lula’s Administration is the lowest since the end of the military regime.
“Lula’s Administration has legalized an average of 6 Indian territories per year. Fernando Henrique Cardoso’s Administration, which was also indifferent to the cause, legalized an average of 14 territories each year during its mandate, more than double what Lula’s Administration has done. Indigenous territories have become political chips in the political bargaining with governors of some states.”
The criticisms also extend to the health assistance given to the indigenous population.
“Indigenous health is a scandal. The Funasa (National Health Foundation) spends millions on seminars and meetings while Indian children die of malnutrition, as shown by what is happening in Mato Grosso do Sul. The emergency measures that were just adopted are whitewash. The problem demands the coordination – currently non-existent – of governmental activities and special governmental policies for the Indian peoples.”
Another demand made by the indigenous organizations is for lawmakers to reject the Constitutional Amendment Proposal (PEC), together with other projects before the Congress which are contrary to Indian interests.
According to the general coordinator of the Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon (Coiab), Jecinaldo Barbosa, if the PEC is approved, the demarcations of Indian territories will have to go through the Legislature, instead of being examined strictly within the Executive sphere.
“This would be a big step backwards, since nowadays we observe an anti-Indian conjuncture in the National Congress,” Barbosa remarked at the launching of the manifesto.
Translation: David Silberstein