For a Russell Tribunal on the Yanomami Genocide

Image: Eugene Liashchevskyi


This commission will say how it was possible, why it happened and who are the political responsible - direct and indirect - for what happened

Certain historical events can be emblematic for understanding an era. Both for those who intend to overcome his cruelties in the near future, and to understand his foundations in the past, because in each immediate present he is no longer the same. Let's start from a simple and clear point: the Brazilian nation has the right to know – in a simple and clear way – what happened to the Yanomami, how it happened and who is responsible for what happened.

The right to know, in the case of the Yanomami genocide, goes beyond judicial investigations and journalistic denunciations, as this knowledge is a process of citizen pedagogy, for a country that must know itself better and better, to overcome a culture that values ​​more the hysterical sublimation of the present than the real history of our unfinished nation. “Knowledge”, in the case of the Yanomami, is the will to recognize us as a people violated by an ill-born freedom.

And this knowledge does not only refer to the present, but above all, how it was possible for the Brazilian nation, in the omissions of its State, to allow what happened to violate an ethnic group, a culture, a community of people who have always lived in its territory – on which modern Brazil prevailed, without the recognition of its way of life and its ethnic dignity, as mandated by the country's Constitution. If we are all responsible, by action or leniency, we have the right and the duty to “know”, both the causes of the tragedy and who are actually responsible.

If this is true the question becomes how do we arrive at this simple and clear point. How can we guarantee the best possible information, organized and verified, translated into meanings that transform what exists into open and shareable knowledge, so that a people, regardless of Government positions, can take ownership of this reality and judge it politically, within the scope of the national conscience.

It seems certain that one or more CPIs will be installed, and that one or more Courts will act, in Brazil and in international Courts. These initiatives will have their scope, objectives and missions, and must follow their course. The simple and clear point, however, that we believe to be essential – outside the scope of the Justice System – can be reached by a simple and clear construction, with the objective of saying what happened, how it happened, why it happened and who are the greater responsibility: a kind of Russell Court of post-modernity, in which an educational and civic function predominates, within the scope of a political culture that advances towards democratic life.

The cause of the tragedy, initially, is the illegal invasion of reserved and protected areas. The objective of this invasion also seems clear: the illegal extraction of minerals and wood, welcomed by the failure – voluntary or not – of the systems responsible for enforcing the law, promoting the preservation of the Yanomami reserve and offering support to its inhabitants. It cannot be that difficult to offer a clear vision of what happened to the Brazilian people and indicate those responsible for the criminal policies that led to the tragedy.

The government must initiate a new political process: it must be a participant, offer its resources and access to what only it can know, without relinquishing control of the other institutional processes that are related to it. And it must do so out of respect for the need to know what there is to know, without serving the interests of one power center or another.

What we propose is to organize a formal structure of voices, respected and aware – with the power to access information – whose mission would be to quickly offer a list of elements that are in obscure corners of the State and in the subsoil of civil society, which become part of the public memory. So that this never happens again. The images we saw cannot be naturalized, but fixed in universal memory as shame and pain.

It is a Commission analogous to the Russell Court which, in this case, will not “judge” by analogy with the Justice System, but will offer foundational elements for a profound understanding of the facts. This Commission, with a virtual platform for the public monitoring of its work, would be instituted by the government – ​​based on the State bodies that are relevant to it – and composed mainly by civil society: jurists, academics, intellectuals, indigenists, community leaders of entities national and indigenous entities. To say, how it was possible: why it happened and who are the political responsible - direct and indirect - for what happened.

*Tarsus-in-law he was governor of the state of Rio Grande do Sul, mayor of Porto Alegre, Minister of Justice, Minister of Education and Minister of Institutional Relations in Brazil. Author, among other books, of possible utopia (Arts & Crafts).

*Marcelo Carneiro da Cunha is a writer.


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