CCPY Update 102 - October 1999


AFTER two decades of campaigning and working to protect and support the Yanomami, the CCPY is about to put into practice radical changes in its structure and operations. The aim is to make better use of its resources in an increasingly hostile political scenario. The sad truth is that 500 years after the Portuguese arrived, some of their descendents are still trying to destroy the indigenous peoples who have survived unassimilated.


In recent years regional groups with economic interests, especially mining, logging and farming, in indigenous areas have been able to achieve much reater representation in the political arena, where they exert growing pressure against policies or legislation that seek to protect indigenous populations. There is now a sizeable "Amazon bloc" in the national congress, and the legislative assemblies of the Amazon states are dominated by members of these groups. At the same time Brazil's economic problems and the escalating unpopularity of President Fernando Henrique Cardoso has weakened the federal government.

In congress this means that a bill to permit mining in indian lands is being hurried through, while the Statute of Indigenous Peoples, which defines the advances set out in the 1988 constitution, is endlessly delayed. Deputies with economic interests in indigenous lands dominate the CPI (parliamentary commission of inquiry) set up to investigate FUNAI. A bill to create indigenous health districts jointly run by NGOs and indians has been passed, but there is opposition from those who do not like to see NGOS being given government funds to carry out essential services. Stories about the hidden geopolitical interests of the industrial countries, who want to get their hands on the riches of the Amazon by using NGOs to encourage independent indian "nations" are circulating once again. The existence of drug traffickers and guerillas in Colombia are also being used as excuses against Amazon demarcations. It adds up to a hostile climate for indigenous peoples in general. The Yanomami in particular, whose land is one of those most coveted by regional interests, face a delicate moment.

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CCPY was invited by FUNASA (National Health Foundation, the government's public health agency) to enlarge its existing Yanomami health programme , which covered about 1000 indians, and take direct responsibility for 12 health posts attending a population of over 6000 indians, over 50% of the total Yanomami population in Brazil, in areas where access is difficult. FUNASA and other non-governmental organisations will provide healthcare in the remaining villages.

The General Assembly of the CCPY decided that in order to cope with this new situation, it would be best to set up a separate organisation to administer the health programme. Called URIHI - SAUDE YANOMAMI, it is run by Dr Deise Alves Francisco and Dr Claudio de Oliveira, who have jointly directed CCPY's health programme for the last six years. The emphasis will be not only on providing medical assistance but training Yanomami health agents.

The final agreement, drawn up between FUNASA and URIHI in September was only negociated after months of discussion and consultation amongst all those directly and indirectly involved in the Yanomami health issue, and provides for a programme elaborated on the lines of the new DSEIs (special indigenous health districts). Besides CCPY's existing 18 employees, URIHI-Saude Yanomami will have to hire over 70 more staff. FUNASA has promised to provide a budget 10 times bigger than that of the present health project.

Officially the new FUNASA-funded programme begins on December 15th. The government agency's decision to hand healthcare over to NGOs was brought about by the relative success of the CCPY and the other organisations in reducing disease, and the failure of the official health service, beset with problems caused by bureacracy, corruption and funding delays, which has led to large increase in sickness rates in the areas it attended.

December will also see the closure of CCPY's existing office in Sao Paulo. The work carried out there will be divided between a new office in Brasilia, to be run by the present executive secretary Fernando Bittencourt and the home office of Claudia Andujar, coordinator of the new Visibility Programme.

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The Brasilia office will look after administrative and financial affairs and coordinate the different parts of CCPY. It will also be responsible for a much more regular and effective political representation of the Yanomami in the capital. This will involve monitoring public policies that affect the Yanomami and their land, as well as representing their collective rights in relevant forums and before ministries.

Being in Brasilia will enable the CCPY to accompany congressional committees and legislation that affect the Yanomami on a day to day basis, and to lobby embassies and multilateral organisations like the World Bank. It will also collaborate with other indigenous and pro-indian organisations in Brasilia on collective campaigns and mobilizations in defence of indigenous rights. The Brasilia office will also attend the media, providing press releases and giving press conferences.

From her home office Claudia will continue to work on the Visibility Programme, the aim of which is to maintain the Yanomami in evidence in the media, through the diffusion of their culture both in Brazil and abroad. This includes exhibitions, publications, and Internet sites. A Cultural Centre is being planned for Boa Vista. Carlo Zacquini, CCPY's Boa Vista representative for nearly 20 years, and who has 30 years of experience with the Yanomami, will continue to represent the organisation in its dealings with Brazilian and overseas authorities, other NGOs and the media.

In Boa Vista the enlarged health project and the education project will each move to new premises, with more room for their multiple activities. The agro-forestry project will share the new HQ of the education project.

The Norwegian Rainforest has financed the Education Project's house: in it Yanomami teachers, health agents, agro-forestry agents and spokespeople will be trained. There is an urgent need to prepare the new generations of Yanomami for new functions because increasingly they will be called on to take part in decision-making on their own future. For example, indigenous participation in the management council of the future Yanomami Health District is planned.

One day we hope that all Yanomami will have access to education in their own language in their villages from the age of 10. At the moment this is happening in Demini, Toototobi and Balawau. Some of the areas that will now be covered by URIHI-Saude Yanomami already have schools set up by other NGOs, while in those areas where there is nothing, we hope that CCPY's Education Project will eventually be able to include them. Those who show special aptitude or motivation will then go on to complete their education in Portuguese and do one of the specialized training courses. Yanomami students from Demini, Toototobi and Balawau are taking part in an intensive onemonth course in Boa Vista, which started in mid-October. The Education Project is run by Marcos Wesley, who has been a teacher in the Yanomami area since 1997.

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CCPY is helping to plan an exhibition at the Ethnography Museum in the Norwegian capital, Oslo. It will consist of Yanomami drawings, cultural material collected over 30 years by Carlo Zacquini and photographs taken over two decades by Claudia Andujar, with texts written by anthropologist Lars Lovold. This major exhibition will run from 4th November until the end of August 2000.

CCPY has been invited to participate in Expo 2000 in Hanover, Germany with the theme Yanomami Education for the 21st Century. This exhibition will open on 1st July 2000 and run until 31st October. Claudia Andujar has been invited to prepare an exhibition for the Cartier Foundation in Paris to open in the year 2001. The aim of this exhibition is to further understanding of the Yanomami through photographs, drawings and cultural material. Anthropologist Bruce Albert will collaborate with the exhibition. In Brazil, in November 2000 the Memorial for Latin America in Sao Paulo will hold a retrospective of Claudia's work with 84 photographs of the Yanomami. Participation in all these exhibitions is part of the Visibility Project.

In June CCPY and Survival Internacional launched MURDER IN THE RAINFOREST, an account of the massacre by goldminers of 18 Yanomami at Haximu in 1993. Written by Jan Rocha, the book uses the eyewitness accounts of survivors collected by anthropologist Bruce Albert, and of the perpetrators, who were sentenced to prison terms, registered by the prosecutors, plus the writings of anthropologist Alcida Ramos and geographer Gordon MacMillan to explain the cultural clash that led up to the massacre. The book was financed by FAFO of Norway, Oxfam of the UK and published by the Latin America Bureau in London.

Davi Kopenawa, Marcos Wesley and Claudia Andujar gave talks to launch the book at meetings in London, Oxford, Edinburgh and Perth organised by Survival Internacional. The book is now being translated into Portuguese and once a publisher is found, it is hoped to launch it in Brazil in 2000.

In 2000 CCPY will be working with an anthropologist of USP, the Sao Paulo University, who has chosen to do his master's on the Yanomami, to organise the organisation's extensive archive of documents and cuttings with a view to preparing a book on the demarcation campaign for the Yanomami area.

In 2001 CCPY intends to launch a book now being planned by Bruce Albert with the Yanomami on the shamanistic concept of Urihi, which means their universe, that is the forest they live in and the spirits that inhabit it. The anthropologist has collected statements from residents of Yanomami villages.

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CCPY is planning to introduce a website with news and information on the Yanomami in Portuguese and English by the end of 1999. Regular features of the website will include

Cultural Centre
The centre's aim is to involve the Yanomami themselves in organising cultural events, providing a space where they can display and explain their own culture to the local population, especially children. The centre will provide a counterweight to the false stereotypes of savages without culture, reasoning or feelings presented by much of the local press and used by local politicians to stir up anti-indigenous sentiment and block measures like demarcation. It will also be a chance to show the "white" world a less immediatist and more humanist vision of the world. There will also be a shrine in memory of the massacre at Haximu, containing a piece of wood full of bullet holes, and Yanomami drawings of funeral rites.

When they have more practice with mathematics, the Yanomami themselves will be able to run a shop in the Centre selling their own products. Eventually the Yanomami will take over the running of the centre.

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The disastrous health situation of the Yanomami and other indigenous groups in Roraima led the government health agency FUNASA to invite CCPY and other NGOs to extend their healthcare programmes to the entire Yanomami area. A report prepared by FUNASA itself shows that in 1998, 279 indians died in Roraima, 180 of them Yanomami. Most of the deaths were caused by acute respiratory infection, malaria and diarrhea, with almost a quarter attributed to unknown causes. Almost half died without any medical assistance.

TB is spreading among the Yanomami. In at least one village over 50% of the population are contaminated. 129 cases of TB had been registered up to September 1999. Many deaths attributed to pneumonia or respiratory problems were in people whose resistance was weakened by tuberculosis.

Half of the deaths in 1998 were of children aged under 5 years old. Deaths and sickness rates have only fallen in the areas where CCPY and other NGOs are providing health care, with vaccination programmes and the training of Yanomami health agents. Yet inspite of their proven success, the government's decision to entrust Yanomami healthcare to the NGOs has been attacked by local politicians who have interests in mining and logging.

Twentyfour of them signed a letter of protest. Ignoring the fact that all the NGOs are Brazilian registered and the medical staff are almost all Brazilian, the politicians insist that handing over healthcare to the NGOs is a step towards internationalization of the Amazon and that NATO might invade on the pretext that human rights are being disrespected and the environment destroyed. This strong political pressure led FUNASA to reduce the area it originally planned to hand over to URIHI-Saude Yanomami. Instead of becoming responsible for 18 of the existing 25 posts, it will be in charge of 12 posts.

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Catholic missionaries in the Upper Orinoco report a continuing deterioration in the health of Yanomami communities there, with many children dying from malaria and diarrhea. Infant mortality is reckoned to be as high as 50% in some of the more remote villages which receive no medical assistance.

Between June and August 20 indians died in just three villages from malaria and pneumonia. "The Yanomami continue to be the group most hit by sickness" but the local government is doing nothing to help them. As a result "the physical and cultural existence of the Yanomami people is under threat.

Where are the authorities of the Upper Orinoco ?" ask the missionaries of the Apostolic Vicariato of Puerto Ayacucho. Dr Boris Ruiz of the Vicariato said that 76% of the population in the Upper Orinoco have no medical assistance whatever, and only ten percent receive regular healthcare.

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The declared aim of this CPI, set up in June 1999 was to investigate the activities of FUNAI, the official indian agency. But leftwing deputies who are members of the CPI say that the real aim of the commission, which is dominated by Amazon congressmen with economic interests in the area, is to prevent new demarcations of indigenous areas and revert some that have already been officialized. Two members of the commission, deputy Elton Rohnelt from Roraima and its rapporteur Antonio Feijao from Amapa, have both been directly involved in illegal goldmining inside indigenous areas.

Vanessa Grazziotin, a communist deputy from Amazonas, said the CPI had only been set up to prevent the installation of a CPI on the alleged corruption scandal involving the national telecommunications company, Telebras. One of the authorities called to give evidence, general Luis Gonzaga Lessa, of the Amazon Military Command, surprised the deputies who are against demarcation by saying that "it is not the demarcation of indigenous areas that will make the Amazon more vulnerable" and that demarcated areas did not obstruct the action of the armed forces.

In September members of the CPI travelled to Roraima to hold audiences and visit indigenous areas. But once there they cancelled planned visits to Demini in the Yanomami and Surucucus area and arrived almost 8 hours late for a meeting with Makuxi indians in the village of Maturuca, spending the time instead on visits to ranchers and rice producers and hearing only anti-demarcation witnesses.

Public prosecutor Deborah Duprat, of the federal prosecutors office (MPF) who accompanied the members of the CPI on their visit to Roraima, said that demarcations were not within the brief of the CPI. " The criteria (for demarcations) are exclusively constitutional and the verification of these criteria in a determined locality is the attribution of an anthropologist..... they) cannot be discussed generically with the population because they do not know the criteria of demarcation."

Back in Brasilia, Deputy Feijao asked the federal police to investigate the "direct and indirect" activities of foreigners in indigenous areas, because they seek to "encourage conflicts between indian communities or indian and non-indian communities. "He also proposed that the "degree of acculturation" of the Makuxi indians in the disputed areas should be evaluated by an international committee. If it can be proved that the Makuxi are "integrated" into white society then their land need not be demarcated. Another rightwing deputy asked that details of the bank accounts of everyone linked to demarcations be made available.

For their part leftwing members asked the federal police for information on any criminal investigations involving congressmen in mining in indigenous lands and requested from the Ministry of Mines and Energy a list of all the mining companies operating in Brazil and who their owners andd directors are. Over 7000 claims to areas in indigenous lands are said to have already been registered, including many in the Yanomami area.

A bill presented by Senator Romero Juca of Roraima to allow the opening up of indigenous areas to mining companies has been approved at the committee stage.

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Unconfirmed reports from the Homoxi area say that four goldminers could have been killed by Yanomami. A group of Yanomami, many of them armed with rifles, appeared at the Funai post in Homoxi and told the official there that they had killed four garimpeiros, but it has been impossible to confirm the deaths. Funasa health agents have abandoned the area for fear of violence while federal police agents were immediately sent to Homoxi.

At least 300 garimpeiros are believed to be working illegally inside the Yanomami area. A URIHI-Saude Yanomami team which travelled to the Homoxi area in September reported finding a chaotic social situation there, with at least three mining camps operating nearby. The garimpeiros have distributed a large quantity of guns and munitions to the indians, which are now used in internal conflicts. One indian was shot dead during the team's visit to the area. Several others have been killed in the recent past. They have also distributed food to gain the sympathy of the indians and as a form of payment for those who work for them. As a result many yanomami have stopped planting their own food.

The Yanomami told the mission that the garimpeiros had never completely abandoned the Homoxi area and although they suspend activities whenever the government launches a removal operation, they always come back. Anthropologist Moises Ramalho and Dr Paulo Basta concluded that the immediate removal of the garimpeiros, who are in the Homoxi, Parafuri and Xiriana areas, is essential in order that they can work with safety. "We are convinced that the garimpeiros' permanence in the area - besides being illegal - is a threat and an aggression against the Yanomami and makes any health or education work with the indians impossible, besides putting the lives of the staff who work there in danger".

The URIHI-Saude Yanomami team conclude with an appeal to all those who work with the Yanomami to press for the disarmament of the indians and much more stringent control to stop arms and munition entering the Yanomami area.

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Paul Taylor of the Foreign Office visited Roraima in August with John Pearson of the British Embassy in Brasilia at the invitation of CIR, the Indigenous Council of Roraima.

The aim of the visit was to see for himself the situation of the indigenous population, in order to be able to answer the many letters sent to the U.K government by NGOs, popular movements and people interested in the question. He also met the governor Neudo Campos who told him that the demarcation of indigenous reserves in islands was the best option both for the indians and for the economic development of the state, and that only 30% of the Makuxi opposed it. According to Jeronimo Pereira, coordinator of CIR, this is not true: he said that about 90% of the Makuxi in 104 communities want the demarcation of a continuous area, while only 22 communities favour islands.

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Representatives from eleven Brazilian states have begun to discuss the creation of an "Amazon Parliament" to obtain greater investments in the region, synchronize tax structures, and draw up common legislation on environmental control and the preservation of genetic material. The states are demanding total control over all development projects in the region, including those in indigenous and environmental preservation areas, and those concerning genetic material.


CCPY Central Office is at: SCLN 210, Bloco C, sala 204
70862-530 Brasilia, D.F.

CCPY Education and Agro-forestry Projects are at:
Rua Costa e Silva 40
69360-030 Boa Vista RR

CCPY's representation will continue at the existing
office in Boa Vista:
Rua Capitao Bessa, 272
69306-620 Boa Vista RR

CCPY Visibility Project is at:
Rua Sao Carlos do Pinhal 345, ap. 2006
01333-001 Sao Paulo SP

URIHI-Saude Yanomami is at: Rua Rocha Leal 717
69306-020 Boa Vista RR

The CCPY's main office in Sao Paulo will close in December.

On the occasion of this, the last Update, we would like to thank all our readers for their support and we hope you will continue to follow news of the Yanomami, the CCPY and URIHI-Saude Yanomami through the Internet.

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Links to other copies:

The CCPY is a Brazilian, independent, and non-profitmaking organisation. Its main aims are to support and defend the life, the rights, the culture and the land of the Yanomami people.

Rua Manoel da Nóbrega 111, cj. 32
04001-900 São Paulo, SP, Brazil.
Tel: +55-11-289 1200, Fax: +55-11-284 6997
Editorial Coordination: Claudia Andujar.
Jornalist and editor: Jan Rocha.
Correspondent: Carlo Zacquini.


Web-Version edited and posted by:
Frohschammerstr. 14
80803 München
tel: 089 - 359 8650, fax: 089 - 359 6622

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