Petition to Brazilian Government: Defend the right to territory of indigenous peoples and traditional communities

Anastacio Peralta (Guarani-Kaiowá)

Brazil is currently debating and processing several retrogressive proposals that modify public policies and procedures regarding the access to land of indigenous peoples and traditional communities.

Indigenous peoples have their rights to adequate food and land violated throughout history. People live in conditions of marginalization, discrimination, persecution and violence due to their lack of access to communally-owned territory, such is the case of the community Brejo dos Crioulos and the over 40 thousand Guarani-Kaiowá.

Please join our call to demand the Brazilian authorities not to approve proposed legislations that further undermine basic human rights for Indigenous Peoples, and instead to guarantee the right to territory of indigenous people and traditional communities in accordance with the current land titling policy.

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Guarani women

1. The Guarani-kaiowá community

Over 40 thousand Guarani-kaiowá live in Southern Mato Grosso do Sul in conditions of confinement, unable to live in accordance with their culture and traditions. They live in conditions of marginalization, discrimination, persecution, chronic hunger and malnutrition; their right to territory is not guaranteed, and nor are other related human rights of these people.

The government´s reluctance to solve these issues over territory has led to all types of violations against the Guarani-Kaiowás people. In 2012, 22 cases of attempted murder of indigenous people were reported in Brazil, 11 of these cases were reported in Mato Grosso do Sul, with the Guaranis as the victims. 7.3% of Guarani-Kaiowás children under 5 years of age are underweight.

2. The case of the Brejo dos Crioulos community

The quilombola community Brejo dos Crioulos, located in Northern Minas Gerais includes 512 families who have been fighting for a title to their land for over 14 years. The quilombola members live confined in very small areas where they are unable to conduct subsistence farming. Given the extremely slow pace of the land titling process, this community has opted for another strategy: re-occupying their territories. On September 15, 2012, in the midst of an occupation conflict, one gunman guarding the private estate died. After this event, five members of the quilombola community were arrested and accused of murder. Since then, the judicial branch has acted in a biased manner, continuing to hold 4 of the quilombola community members in prison despite the fact that there is no evidence linking these individuals to the murders.

3. Retrogression in the Rights of Indigenous People and Traditional Communities

While a broad legal framework does recognize the rights of Indigenous People and Traditional Communities, a great amount of work must still be done, since, for example, Article 67 of the Transient Constitutional Provisions Act the Federal Constitution of 1988, which established a 5-year time limit for the finalization of the demarcation process of indigenous lands. This period of compliance ended 20 years ago and many indigenous peoples still suffer from the lack of access to territory.

Currently different governmental branches are debating several proposals that seek to further restrain the rights of indigenous peoples and traditional communities:

3.1 - Legislative Measures

a. The Complementary Bill (PLP) 227/2012, - mandates an economic and social viability study by a working group comprised by an anthropologist from FUNAI (National Indian Foundation), employees of the Ministries of Agriculture and Justice, historians, representatives of the indigenous group, as well as the land owners whose land will be expropriated. This policy will make it difficult to create new land areas for indigenous people and will violate what the constitution and international treaties currently establish. The working group´s activities are already underway; and parliamentarians and indigenous peoples are participating.

b. Constitutional Amendment 215/2000 - PEC 215 - proposal for a Constitutional Amendment, which would assign the responsibility for demarcation and ratification of those indigenous and quilombola territories already homologated to the National Congress. This proposal represents a grave historical retrogression in the struggle to guarantee the right to territory for these peoples and is designed to create obstacles for the realization of indigenous people´s right to territory, since there is no indigenous representation in the National Congress who could directly defend their rights and interests.

c. Bill 1.610/96, which regulates mining in indigenous lands and, among other serious impacts, does not ensure the indigenous people´s autonomy, nor does it fulfill Article 09 of Convention 169 of the ILO (International Labour Organization). This article guarantees the right to free, prior and informed consultation for indigenous people and that the broad debate regarding this law is related to the approval of Indigenous People Statute.

3.2  -  Executive Measures:

d-. A new demarcation policy for Indigenous Lands proposed by the federal government that decentralizes this process is currently the responsibility of FUNAI. Minister Gleisi Hoffman (Civil Cabinet), on May 8, 2013, affirmed that the government would announce a new demarcation policy for indigenous lands, decentralizing the process currently assigned to FUNAI (National Indian Foundation).  The primary measure is to include other governmental organs in the process of defining indigenous lands, such as Embrapa (Brazilian Agricultural Research Company), whose purpose would be to create a map of the present status of these areas throughout the country. The Ministries of Agrarian Development and of Agriculture would also be consulted. All these organs are under tremendous pressure from agribusiness. Currently, FUNAI is the sole responsible party for this task, while also formally linked to the Ministry of Justice.

3.3 - Judicial Measures

The Direct Unconstitutionality Action 3239 (ADIN 3239), proposed by the Democrat Party against Decree 4887/2003 regulates the demarcation of lands occupied by the remaining members of quilombola communities. The Democrat Party (DEM) questions the absence of a law regulating Decree 4.887/2003.