Brazil: indigenous people occupy Congress

On April 16, when Brazil commemorates Indigenous Peoples Day, some 700 indigenous representatives occupied the lower-house Chamber of Deupites in a final effort to stop attempts to change the law concerning their territorial rights. They pledged to maintain their protests until the National Congress drops Constitutional Amendment Proposal 215 (PEC 215), now making its way through the lower house, which would transfer the power to demarcate indigenous lands from the executive to the legislative branch. Indigenous leaders call the move a stratagem by Brazil’s powerful Rural Lobby, which includes many politicians who own ranches on indigenous land. Police used tasers in an attempt to stop the occupation.

Last year, the Lobby succeeded in pressuring the Prosecutor General to issue Directive 303, which halts the expansion of indigenous reserves nationwide. The decree came as ranchers in Matto Grosso do Sul were moving to evict GuaranĂ­ communities on lands that had been awaiting demarcation as indigenous territory. (Survival International, April 19; Intercontinental Cry, April 18; Survival International, July 25, 2012)

On the same day as the protest action, GuaranĂ­ leaders gathered at the Chamber of Deputies in Brasilia to hear a congressionally-appointed commission deliver a report favorable to their territorial claims at the contested settlement of Pyelito Kue. But two days earlier, a GuaranĂ­ man was killed when a retired Military Police officer who is now a local rancher invaded Lagoa Rica-Panambi Indigenous Territory in Douradina, Mato Grosso do Sul. (AgĂȘncia BrasilCIMI, April 14)