Brazil: victory for indigenous land struggle
Indigenous peoples across Brazil declared a victory when the country's Congress concluded work for the year on Dec. 17, having failed to approve a constitutional amendment, known as PEC 215, aimed at gutting the process of land demarcation. PEC 215 would have transfered responsibility for demarcation from the executive to legislative branch, where the land barons have far more power. This would have effectively halted pending demarcations of indigenous lands and Quilombola (Afro-Brazilian) territories. Under congressional rules, the ending of the session without a vote on the amendment automatically disbands the special commission that was established to analyze it. The congressional agribusiness bloc that pushed for PEC 215 will have to start over from zero when the body re-convenes next year. The Association of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB) issued an open letter to mark the victory, stating, "We indigenous peoples have shown that we will never allow our lands to be recolonized, invaded or destroyed, even if that means sacrificing our own lives."
The victory followed days of protests by indigenous people and their supporters outside the Congress building in Brasilia. The day before the session ended, indigenous protestors—some armed withe bows and arrows and spears—clashed with military police as they were blocked from entering the House of Deputies. Five were arrested and charged with "attempted homicide" of police officers. But when they came before a judge on Dec. 19, the indigenous men asserted that police had tear-gassed and assaulted them. The charges against all five were dismissed, with Judge Fabio Francisco Esteves finding that the men were "exercising their right to protest, to free expression and to the right of participating in the public sphere." (Survival International, Dec. 24; ICTMN, Dec. 22; SocioAmbiental, Dec. 18 in translation by Intercontinental Cry)