Brazilian Indians Give President Lula an F

The 3rd Acampamento Terra Livre (Free Land Camp) Letter has been debated and written by more than 500 Brazilian indigenous leaders from 84 peoples coming from 19 Federal Units, who have gathered together in the Ministerial Esplanade, in BrasÀ­lia, the capital of Brazil.

It strongly criticized the current official indigenous policy and pointed out the way forward towards a new relationship between indigenous people and the State, and demanded that promises made by the Federal Government during the election campaign and since it assumed power are carried out.

The need for indigenous people to participate in public policies that concern them was the central issue of the debates and demands.

The camp participants gave the indigenous policy of the Lula administration a negative evaluation, considering that the few results achieved have had to be "prized out" by applying a lot of "pressure and effort which have even required the lives of our relatives to be sacrificed."

"The Lula administration has stuck to a retrograde, tutelary, bureaucratic official policy, confusing the interests of indigenous peoples with those of Funai, and confusing this indigenous institution with indigenous policy," the document concludes.

The lack of commitment mentioned by the camp participants in the letter recalls that "of the 14 land demarcation procedures being processed by the Ministry of Justice which were submitted to the Minister of Justice and the president of Funai for a solution in Indigenous April, 2005, only one has had a declaratory government order published." The indigenous movement demands that the Federal Government goes back to regulating indigenous lands at the rate it used to.

In the opinion of the current leaders, the indifference shown to the indigenous people, which has characterized the Lula administration during the three years of its mandate, was reaffirmed by the Government when it refused to receive a commission which tried to deliver the final letter to the three branches (the Federal Administration, Congress and the Supreme Court).

"In spite of the hearing having been booked the previous day with a representative of the President of the Republic, who would be defined by the Government, the commission of indigenous leaders was not received.

"First the time was changed, for which no reasons were given, and later the commission of leaders was refused entry to the Presidential Office by two advisors to the Lula’s chief of staff, Gilberto Carvalho, who said that the government would receive three representatives but not a commission, due to time and space restraints," they said in a letter signed by the Forum in Defense of Indigenous People’s Rights and by Apib.

In spite of this, the indigenous peoples’ final speeches considered the mobilization as being positive for the movement. "This is not a moment for us to feel defeated, but one for us to know that we are warriors and we will continue to fight, as we always have done," said the leader Mura, who had participated in the camp.

On the day that it drew to a close, the Free Land mobilization presented the final document to the president of the Federal Senate, Renan Calheiros, and took part in a Public Hearing in the Senate.

They were also received by the president of the Supreme Federal Court, justice Ellen Gracie, who promised to give priority to processes connected to indigenous lands. "These are complex issues, which will take a long time to process, but we can give them precedence," the justice said.  

In the health area, the indigenous leaders observed a marked worsening in the health services provided to indigenous peoples between 2005 and today.

"The indigenous people who are members of the District Councils have not been trained; resources are still not compatible with the DSEI’s demands; and the DSEIs have still not been granted administrative and financial autonomy," they said.

In the letter, they restate the agreement from last year understanding that "the transfer of indigenous school education activities to the states – and from the states to the municipalities – is the main stumbling block preventing the implementation of a differentiated, quality indigenous school education program."

Cimi – Indianist Missionary Council

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