BRASILIA – Some 1,500 Brazilian Indians marched in Brasilia on Thursday to demand progress on the demarcation of indigenous lands, a process they say has been frozen by the administration of President Michel Temer.
Participants blocked traffic as they made their way through the center of Brasilia to the seat of Congress, where they performed traditional indigenous rituals and spoke out against several bills now under consideration by lawmakers.
One of those bills would transfer the power to define the limits of indigenous territories from the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI), a semi-autonomous government agency, to Congress.
Another bill would recognize as Indian land only those territories occupied by indigenous people on Oct. 5, 1988, when Brazil’s current constitution was adopted.
Indian leaders say the measure would effectively legalize thefts of indigenous land that took place before that date.
At the end of the demonstration, protesters returned to the camp they set up Monday as part of National Mobilization of Indigenous Peoples Week, an annual event in the capital since 2003.
The camp, which will be taken down on Friday, has been the scene this week of discussions about the precarious state of Brazil’s nearly 600 indigenous reserves.
“Today, as never before in the past 30 years, the Brazilian state has a completely adverse relationship to indigenous rights,” the activists say in a manifesto, blasting the government for a “political decision” that has fostered an increase in violence toward Indians.
A report published last week by the Catholic Church’s Pastoral Commission on the Land said that 2017 saw 70 deaths resulting from conflicts over land ownership, the highest number of fatalities in 14 years.
Most of the victims were farm laborers, landless peasants, Indians, Afro-Brazilians and fisherfolk.