April red with annatto!

Image: Raphael Brasileiro
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By MÁRCIO MEIRA*

Resuming Brazil: Demarcating Territories and Aldeating Politics

In memory of the jurist Dalmo Dallari, defender and decisive ally of indigenous peoples in the Constituent Assembly, I denounce: the bet of this genocidal government is the destruction of the set of public policies aimed at the original peoples of Brazil.

Brazil is experiencing an April red with urucu. More than 7 indigenous women and men, from various peoples and from all regions of Brazil, set a new attendance record in Brasília, with the agenda 'Resuming Brazil: Demarcating Territories and Aldear a Política'. For those who passed by the esplanade of the ministries, it was impossible to ignore the bodies painted in red, as a sign of struggle.

The 2022 Terra Livre Camp is already the biggest protest event for these peoples in history. Therefore, the silence of the so-called corporate media on the demonstrations and threats by the Bolsonaro government and its minions on the very serious issues that indigenous people denounce to the world is resounding. The complaints connect human rights to environmental protection as a single and inseparable challenge with local and global impact, especially those related to the climate emergency.

Almost a year has passed since the last camp was held, in June 2021, until then the largest indigenous mobilization ever held in the federal capital of Brazil, with more than 5 participants. The act was marked by the immense nocturnal circular dance, punctuated with lights, performed in Praça dos Três Poderes, representing one of the most forceful popular demonstrations against the current government of Brazil, whose image circulated around the world.

The central agenda of the claims was the guarantee of indigenous rights in Brazil, threatened by initiatives such as Bill 490/2007, an initiative that proposes to modify the Statute of the Indigenous, as Law 6001/73 is called, with regard to territorial rights.

Today, in addition to those, are other threats announced as a priority for the federal government in Congress, such as Bill 191/2020, which opens indigenous lands to large-scale exploitation, such as mining, hydroelectric plants and other infrastructure plans, to be voted on in urgency regime imposed by the current mayor, Arthur Lira.

Also hanging over our heads is the judgment, in the Federal Supreme Court, of the so-called “time frame”, to be resumed later this semester, in addition to the package that makes up bills 6.299/2002, releasing pesticides, 2.633/2020 and 510/2021 , favoring land grabbing; and 3.729/2004, on environmental licensing. All these initiatives directly attack the fundamental principles of the Constitution, especially in relation to indigenous territorial rights.

The current demonstration of indigenous struggle and resistance occurs because since 2019, with the beginning of the Jair Bolsonaro government, in addition to the legislative initiatives mentioned above, there has been a resurgence of criminal actions and omissions, contrary to indigenous people, undertaken or supported by the federal government and by the anti-indigenous economic and political forces linked to it, present in Congress and outside it.

Attacks on indigenous lands in the Legal Amazon in particular have caused an uncontrolled increase in deforestation in these important protected areas, characterizing an affront to both indigenous and environmental legislation, and even against Brazilian sovereignty and the country's international commitments.

The increase in deforestation in the Amazon reached more than 9 km² in 2019, then reflecting an increase of 100% in five years. And 2021 once again broke that record, with an increase of 100% compared to the previous year.

The first quarter of 2022 has already broken that record again. Data are from INPE. Meanwhile, Ibama, ICMBio and Funai, the bodies responsible for the protection of protected areas, have been destroyed, in the form of “cupinization”, from the inside out, as Minister Carmen Lúcia rightly stated, in a historic vote on the so-called “pauta green” at the Federal Supreme Court.

It should be reiterated that the 1988 Constitution has its own chapter, with articles 231 and 232, among others dispersed throughout the Charter, which rigorously discipline the indigenist matter as a fundamental right. The caput of article 231 recognizes indigenous peoples' original rights over the lands they traditionally occupy according to their uses, customs and traditions, and determines that the Union promotes their demarcation and protection of their assets.

As for the 1973 Statute of the Indian, the provisions relating to territorial rights are in full force, being regulated by Decree 1775/1996, and more recently by Decree 7747/2012, which established the legal framework of the National Policy for Territorial and Environmental Management of the Indigenous Lands, which aims to guarantee and promote the protection, recovery, conservation and sustainable use of the natural resources of the Indigenous Lands.

Regulating the 1988 Constitution, such legal mechanisms ensure the integrity of the indigenous heritage, the improvement of the quality of life and full conditions for the physical and cultural reproduction of indigenous peoples, respecting their autonomy and forms of environmental and territorial management.

Despite this legislation, which seeks to redeem the historic debt with the original peoples, in the last three years the situation of indigenous communities has become increasingly vulnerable to various situations of violence: invasion of traditional territories, illegal logging, illegal mining, illegal leasing of indigenous lands to agribusiness sectors, pressure from religious fundamentalists, all aggravated by the pandemic.

The situation of threat to indigenous peoples in voluntary isolation or recent contact in the Amazon extrapolated all security variables defined by Brazilian legislation, considered an international reference.

I repeat here what I wrote in 2021, in the edition of Focus: the bet of this genocidal government is the destruction of the set of public policies aimed at indigenous peoples, with an emphasis on combating the demarcations of their traditionally occupied territories.

This gang of thugs, anchored in the federal government since 2019, is driven by robbery, resentment and a vengeful spirit against the principles of the democratic pact established by the 1988 Constitution, and therefore they are betting on legislative changes that affront them. Indigenous people are among the most vulnerable victims of this true Bolsonarist necropolitics.

It is always good to remember, however, that this was not always the case in the recent history of the country. The governments of Brazil from 1988 until the 2016 Coup, from different political spectrums, maintained and guaranteed, even if sometimes minimally, respect for the environmental rights and indigenous peoples established in the Magna Carta. After all, these rights were the result of many struggles, by indigenous peoples and the vast majority of Brazilian society during the 1987 Constituent Assembly.

With a huge variety of peoples, languages, cultures, and also diversified political positions within their organizations, articulated around the Articulação dos Povos Indígenas do Brasil (APIB), what most characterizes the indigenous people camped in Brasília is their diversity.

However, if there is something that unifies them, it is the desire for the imminent end of the Bolsonaro government and the nightmare it represents. The red color of the urucu reveals, above all, the expectation of these collectives that after this nightmare their rights will be respected and their autonomies and sociocultural diversities valued, bringing peace and hope to their lives and that of new generations.

*Marcio Meira, anthropologist at the Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi (MPEG) and professor at the Graduate Program in Sociocultural Diversity at MPEG. He was president of Funai between 2007 and 2012.

Originally published in the magazine Focus Brazil.

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