UK-based indigenous rights advoacy group Survival International has launched a campaign to prevent the annihilation of tribal peoples in Brazil, to coincide with the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Despite the political chaos currently engulfing Brazil, the campaign aims to bring attention to serious human rights issues and threats facing the country's indigenous peoples. Survival states: "These threats persist regardless of the political turmoil in the country." The campaign, "Stop Brazil's Genocide," focuses on protecting "uncontacted" tribes of the Amazon such as the Kawahiva people; ending violence and land theft directed against the Guarani in southern Brazil; and stopping PEC 215, a proposed constitutional amendment that would undermine indigenous land rights and spell disaster for tribes nationwide.
For decades, Survival has campaigned on behalf of "uncontacted" tribes—of which there are estimated to be more than 100 in Brazil. They are held to be the "most vulnerable societies" on the planet. Peoples such as the Kawahiva are being wiped out by violence from outsiders who steal their land and resources, and by diseases to which they have no resistance.
In southern Brazil, ranchers have devastated the territory of the Guarani people, and nearly all of their land has been stolen. Guarani children starve and their leaders are being assassinated by ranchers' gunmen, one by one. Hundreds of Guarani men, women and children have committed suicide.
Finally, PEC 215 would give landowners the chance to block the recognition of new indigenous territories, and could enable them to break up existing ones. As tribes depend on land for their very survival, this would pose an existential threat to many peoples, fatally undermining their human rights.
Survival's director Stephen Corry said: "Political crisis or not, these are crucial issues which must be taken seriously. All eyes are on Brazil as it prepares to host the Olympics, and it's up to Brazilians to make sure history looks back at their generation favorably." (SI, April 19)
Repeated efforts to pass PEC 215 have failed in recent years, but the impeachment of president Dilma Rousseff increases the odds for passage—as well as making passage less of an imperative, as the executive branch will likely be more compliant with Brazil's landed interests anyway. Rousseff has been responsible for her own crimes against Brazil's indigenous peoples—most notably, approval of the Belo Monte mega-dam. But the forces that have effected her impeachment are far more aggressively hostile to indigenous rights.
A group of some 80 indigenous leaders from throughout the country were among those who protested against Rousseff's impeachment in Brasília on May 11. Neguinho Truká, a leader of the Truká people in the northern state of Pernambuco, told reporters: "It worries us, because the ones who articulated the impeachment serve rural landowners and evangelical interests who are radically opposed to social movements in this country, especially indigenous."
"Our message today is to demand that [interim president Michel] Temer's government doesn't annul the decrees and orders [regarding land rights] signed by Dilma's government," added Sonia Guajajara of the Guajajara people of Maranhão state.
Anna Terra Yawalapiti, of the Yawalapiti people of Matto Grosso, said of Rousseff: "She authorized projects that did a lot of harm to our lands, the environment, nature." But Yawalapiti emphasized: "We don't expect a lot from [Temer]. If we have to go to war, we will go to war." (Extra, Brazil, AJ+, May 11)