[News] Brazil’s Indigenous Groups Mount Unprecedented Protest Against Destruction of the Amazon

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Sun Aug 29 14:20:55 EDT 2021


theintercept.com
<https://theintercept.com/2021/08/28/brazil-amazon-indigenous-protest/>
Brazil’s
Indigenous Groups Mount Unprecedented Protest Against Destruction of the
Amazon
Andrew Fishman <https://theintercept.com/staff/andrew-fishman/> - August
28, 2021
------------------------------

*Indigenous communities in* Brazil organized the largest-ever native
protests to block what they described as “a declaration of extermination”
from lawmakers representing agribusiness, mining, and logging interests
aligned with far-right President Jair Bolsonaro.

The umbrella group Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil
<https://apiboficial.org/?lang=en>, or APIB, put together the protests as
part of the weeklong “Struggle for Life” protest in the capital, Brasília,
in anticipation of a decision from the Supreme Court that could invalidate
Indigenous land claims.

“Our struggle takes as its target all governments that are complicit in
Bolsonaro’s campaign of genocide, all corporations that seek to profit from
it,” APIB said in a joint statement with Progressive International
<https://progressive.international/>, a left-wing coalition that sent a
delegation to survey the situation. “The fight against Bolsonaro extends
far beyond the borders of Brazil.”

“We are the ones suffering. The government doesn’t suffer. So that’s why
we’re here to fight.”

APIB expected the Supreme Court would strike down a challenge to Indigenous
land claims during its protest, but the court postponed the judgment to
next week after one vote was cast in favor of Indigenous rights. One
right-wing lawmaker, whose fortune comes from agriculture, said
<https://deolhonosruralistas.com.br/2021/08/27/ruralistas-trabalharam-para-adiar-julgamento-do-marco-temporal-revela-neri-geller/>
he and his colleagues lobbied the justices to further delay the ruling so
that Congress has time to pass measures that would strip Indigenous land
rights through legislation instead of the courts.

Since 2019, Bolsonaro has used his executive authority to aggressively
attack
<https://theintercept.com/2021/05/27/brazil-bolsonaro-environment-amazon/>
Indigenous
rights, slash environmental protections, and cripple relevant law
enforcement efforts — moves that have drawn international
<https://news.mongabay.com/2019/09/prompted-by-amazon-fires-230-investors-warn-firms-linked-to-deforestation/>
condemnation
<https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20210408-brazil-s-bolsonaro-under-pressure-ahead-of-climate-summit>.
Closely aligned with the powerful agribusiness lobby, the government has
also pushed forward a slew of consequential bills in Congress that, if
passed, would be a death sentence for many of Brazil’s Indigenous
communities
<https://theintercept.com/2019/07/06/brazil-amazon-rainforest-indigenous-conservation-agribusiness-ranching/>
and, critics warn, the entire Amazon rainforest.

“We are the ones suffering. The government doesn’t suffer,” said Pasyma
Panará, president of the Iakiô Association in the Xingu region of the
Amazon. “So that’s why we’re here to fight.”

The delegation from Progressive International included a member of the
Spanish parliament, Indigenous leaders, labor activists, and two U.S.
congressional staffers who were participating in a personal capacity. The
group traveled to Brasília and the Amazonian cities of Belém and Santarém
for a week of meetings with Brazilian politicians and environmentalists and
groups representing Indigenous communities, labor, and landless peasants.

“This delegation aims to bring the eyes of the world to Brazil,” David
Adler, general coordinator of Progressive International, told The
Intercept. “We are here to develop a common strategy to confront the crises
that are facing Brazil.”

[image: IMG_4697]

Indigenous Brazilians protest against President Jair Bolsonaro, holding a
sign which reads, “Bolsonaro, get out,” at the Struggle For Life encampment
in Brasília, Brazil, on Aug. 26, 2021. Protestors hold a banner that reads
“Our history doesn’t begin in 1988”, the year the Constitution was signed
into law, “we have resisted for more than 12,000 years.”

Photo: Andrew Fishman
Struggle for Life

More than 6,000 representatives of 176 Indigenous groups pitched tents and
lashed together bamboo shelters for seven days of protest and cultural
exchange. The encampment sat on a dusty patch of land in the capital, less
than a mile up the main promenade from Congress, the Supreme Court, and the
presidential palace.

To participate, delegates from the most far-flung corners of Brazil’s
massive expanses spent as many as three days on packed buses that navigated
washed-out dirt roads, traveling under the threat of ambushes from
paramilitary gangs.

Before rousing speeches by movement leaders and allies could begin on the
main stage, groups of Xikrin, Munduruku, Xukuru, and others dressed in full
ceremonial regalia and performed traditional dances and songs for the
crowd. Tech-savvy Indigenous influencers and journalists livestreamed the
proceedings on social media, engulfed in plumes of red dust.

“We know what evil is. Evil is the agribusiness invading our territories.”

“We know what evil is,” said one speaker to applause. “Evil is the
agribusiness invading our territories.”

Brazil’s Indigenous people have no shortage of reasons to protest. Their
ancestral lands are increasingly threatened by major agricultural
infrastructure projects and violent land thieves aided by government
agencies. Violent attacks
<https://theintercept.com/2019/02/16/brazil-bolsonaro-indigenous-land/> are
on the rise and environmental degradation is making traditional ways of
life less tenable.

Meanwhile, Congress has been voting on one bill after another that would
undo the hard-fought protections written into the 1988 constitution. Under
Bolsonaro, everything has gone from bad to worse.

For weeks, organizers have been primarily focused on the Supreme Court
decision that could substantially reduce constitutionally protected
Indigenous territories. “It is one of the most important judgments in
history,” said APIB leader Sônia Guajajara, in a livestreamed event last
Thursday. “The struggle of Indigenous peoples is a struggle for the future
of humanity.”

The measure, known as the “Milestone Thesis,” or “Marco Temporal” in
Portuguese, would invalidate the land claims of Indigenous groups that did
not physically occupy the territory on the day the new constitution was
signed in 1988, ignoring centuries of genocidal oppression that forced many
tribes to flee their ancestral homes.

Indigenous land rights are enshrined in Brazil’s Constitution, but the
government has moved at a snail’s pace over the last three decades to
process claims. Meanwhile, Brazil’s agribusiness, mining, and lumber
industries
<https://theintercept.com/2019/12/07/amazon-latin-america-extractivism/>,
with their international
<https://theintercept.com/2019/08/27/amazon-rainforest-fire-blackstone/>
backers
<https://theintercept.com/2019/08/23/gop-lobbyists-help-brazil-recruit-u-s-companies-to-exploit-the-amazon/>,
have their eyes on many of the vast tracts of land, mostly located in the
Amazon, that are claimed by natives. The business interests have been
chipping away at the protections by any means necessary in the courts, in
Congress, and on the ground.

Illegal invasions into Indigenous lands by violent, heavily armed groups
have been on the rise
<https://theintercept.com/2021/05/27/brazil-bolsonaro-environment-amazon/>
in recent years. Criminal groups have been emboldened by Bolsonaro, who
campaigned
<http://www.ihu.unisinos.br/186-noticias/noticias-2017/566529-bolsonaro-nem-um-centimetro-para-quilombola-ou-reserva-indigena>
on the promise that, if elected president, “there won’t be a centimeter
demarcated for Indigenous reserves” and has made racist, genocidal comments
<https://theintercept.com/2018/10/28/jair-bolsonaro-elected-president-brazil/>
about Indigenous peoples throughout
<https://politica.estadao.com.br/noticias/geral,cada-vez-mais-humano-fedorentos-e-massa-de-manobra-as-declaracoes-de-bolsonaro-sobre-indios,70003171335>
his career.

“The Marco Temporal represents for us, Indigenous peoples, a declaration of
extermination,” said Eloy Terena
<https://www.wilsoncenter.org/blog-post/interview-eloy-terena-indigenous-land-rights-activist-brazil>,
a lawyer and Indigenous rights activist, during an event last Thursday.
Terena pointed out that many of Brazil’s 114
<http://www.funai.gov.br/index.php/nossas-acoes/povos-indigenas-isolados-e-de-recente-contato>
uncontacted tribes, which rely on government protection, live in
territories that could be threatened if the Marco Temporal legal thesis is
upheld.
Fight for Representation

The only way to put the brakes on the tractors that are plowing through the
Amazon, Rep. Joênia Wapichana told The Intercept, is a “political renewal.”
Indigenous people and their allies must “attain the majority within
Congress,” she said, something that has never happened. “Maybe that way
they might think twice before putting forward a proposal to reduce
Indigenous rights.”

Wapichana, 47, is Brazil’s first female Indigenous lawyer and member of
Congress. She is currently the country’s sole Indigenous representative. At
the “Struggle for Life” protest, she got the rockstar treatment: Wherever
she went, adoring fans lined up to snag selfies.

In a meeting with a dozen leaders from some of Brazil’s hardest-hit
Indigenous communities, a Progressive International delegate asked which
politicians they considered solid allies. The group hesitated to respond,
whispering among themselves until one of them spoke up: “Rep. Joênia has
fought alongside us a lot,” one Indigenous leader said, going on to name a
handful of nongovernmental organizations. None of them were from
Wapichana’s state of Roraima. Any other names? This time the answer was
quick: “No, not that I remember.”

“Agribusiness not only buys advertising, it also buys the editorial line
and influences news coverage.”

The Mixed Parliamentary Front <http://frenteparlamentarindigena.com.br/>in
Defense of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, launched in 2019 by Wapichana,
is comprised of 237 of Brazil’s 594 members of Congress. But during the
first four days of the protest, only two federal elected representatives
stepped foot on the protest’s main stage and only a handful visited the
encampment. No major presidential hopefuls or prominent government
officials attended.

In a change from recent Indigenous protests — which ended in violent
repression — police kept their distance. Coverage from major national news
outlets has also been hard to come by. On Wednesday, APIB’s executive
coordinator Dinamam Tuxá lamented to The Intercept that none of the three
main newspapers in Brazil — which rely on agribusiness advertising
<https://outraspalavras.net/crise-brasileira/o-que-a-midia-esconde-quando-fala-o-agro-e-pop/>
— had yet run a cover story on the historic protest. “Agribusiness not only
buys advertising,” he said, “it also buys the editorial line and influences
news coverage.”

[image: IMG_4948]

Indigenous Brazilians sing while protesting outside of the Supreme Court in
Brasília, Brazil, on Aug. 26, 2021, as they await an important ruling from
the court. They are among 6,000 people who came to the capital in
opposition to measures that would dramatically roll back Indigenous
territorial rights.

Photo: Andrew Fishman
International Solidarity

Even if the Marco Temporal is defeated in the Supreme Court, dozens of
other proposals and government actions threaten Indigenous lands and serve
to push the Amazon rainforest
<https://theintercept.com/2019/07/06/brazil-amazon-rainforest-indigenous-conservation-agribusiness-ranching/>
closer to a deforestation
<https://www3.socioambiental.org/geo/RAISGMapaOnline/> “tipping point
<https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-00508-4>.” The result would be
an irrevocable collapse of the ecosystem.

Leading scientists believe
<https://news.mongabay.com/2018/03/amazon-forest-to-savannah-tipping-point-could-be-far-closer-than-thought-commentary/>
that the tipping point will come at 20 to 25 percent deforestation, causing
the lush Amazon to dry up and turn into a savanna, provoking catastrophic
carbon emissions and severe droughts throughout the continent. Eighteen
percent <https://www.regnskog.no/en/what-we-do/the-amazon> of the Amazon
has already been cut down and the rate of destruction has only increased
<https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-55130304> under Bolsonaro.

“Our lives are at risk and we are asking for help,” Auricélia Arapium, a
native leader from the Tapajós region, told the Progressive International
delegation during a meeting at the encampment on Monday. “We no longer have
anyone to turn to in Brazil. That’s why we have approached international
organizations, so that our rights, which are being threatened, are
preserved.”

In a press conference later that day, Progressive International announced
that it plans to work with partners around the globe to launch a boycott of
foreign companies responsible for the destruction of the Amazon and the
trampling of Indigenous rights. The investment giant Blackstone
<https://theintercept.com/2019/08/27/amazon-rainforest-fire-blackstone/>
and the private agricultural conglomerate Cargill
<https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/may/19/food-giants-accused-of-links-to-amazon-deforestation>
are at the top of their list.

“We need to look at the corporations that are fueling this and the U.S. and
international foreign policy that’s enabling these corporations,” said Nick
Estes <https://theintercept.com/staff/nick-estes/>, a professor at the
University of New Mexico, a Progressive International delegate, and a
citizen of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe.

“The practices of these corporations like Cargill are fundamentally
racist,” said Estes, who has contributed
<https://theintercept.com/staff/nick-estes/> to The Intercept. “If more
people understood how much Indigenous blood, how much Black blood, how much
blood from Brazilians living on the land is spilt just for them to have a
cheeseburger, I think there would be much more outrage.”
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