|News-Letter Nr. 533|
A painful fact in the Brazilian elections was the fall of an airplane that was taking ten ballot boxes to indigenous communities in the High Negro River area, in the state of Amazonas. Its five occupants died and the ten electronic ballot boxes were lost. If we consider the votes received by the 20 indigenous candidates, a little over 13,000 altogether, we see that they represent only a small percentage of the country's indigenous voters, who total about 200,000. This could lead us to the conclusion that the "ethnic vote" continues to be more a debate and an aspiration than a reality.
If we try to identify the reason of the poor performance of indigenous candidates, we see that it was caused by various factors. Among them, special mention should be made of the party policy historically adopted in indigenous villages, the high cost of the campaigns, disbelief in the party policy, and the lack of a true understanding of the space for the exercise of power in the non-indigenous society.
Despite this scenario, one can notice a greater interest and a higher awareness on the part of the indigenous movement of the importance of its participation in the country's political life. In 1998, we only had 14 indigenous candidates. In these elections, that number grew to 20. This number, although not very high in itself, reveals the trend to face the challenge of the ballot boxes as a means to further the indigenous cause and ensure the rights of indigenous people. The present electoral moment and the results of the elections should show to all the citizens of this country, particularly to its rulers, that the relations between indigenous peoples, the State and the national society should be urgently reviewed, so as to ensure their participation in the national life under rules and through channels of their own. That is, as in other countries, they should be able to have a differentiated participation in legislative circles.
If, on the one hand, no indigenous person was elected, the indigenous candidates of left-wing parties won most of the votes (72%) and most indigenous people voted for candidates who want to see a change in the policies now in force.
In the state of Acre, with the reelection of senator Marina Silva, her alternate Ant"nio Ferreira da Silva, a member of the ApurinÆ people, will continue to play a role in the political scenario. The chart below shows the indigenous candidates and the votes they got (source: Cimi and High Electoral Court).
Indigenous candidates for the position of Federal Representative
Evilasio Pereira da Silva
Jos Adalberto Silva
PC do B
* Unit of the Federation
Indigenous candidates for the position of State Representative
Jos Osair Sales (SiÆ)
Francisco de Oliveira Lima
Jos Al¡rio Gomes Öndio
Marta da Silva Vito
Mariano Justino Marcos Terena
Larcio Marques Pereira
L£cio Paiva Flores
Almir Narayamoga Suru¡
Jos Frana Miguel
Gilberto Pedrosa Lima
Rodrigo Batista Pinto
Jonas de Souza Marcolino
SebastiÆo Bento da Silva
* Unit of the Federation
Last Tuesday, Decree 4,412 issued by President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, which "provides for the activities of the Armed Forces and of the Federal Police in indigenous lands and for other matters," was published in the Official Gazette.
The Fernando Henrique Cardoso administration continues to refuse to abide by the Federal Constitution in what regards the nullity of acts aimed at the occupation, domain, and possession of indigenous lands. Although they constitute assets of the Union, these lands are to remain under the permanent possession of the indigenous people who live in them.
Article 3 of the above-mentioned decree provides that the Armed Forces and the Federal Police may deal with "conflicts involving indigenous people or groups". The Armed Forces and the Federal Police are not the competent bodies to deal with inter-ethnic conflicts. Funai is the agency in charge of dealing with such issues, and only in extreme cases the president of the agency can consider its involvement without the need of any decree for this purpose.
Cimi will file a representation with the Attorney General and the Federal Council of the Brazilian BAR Association so that they may challenge the constitutional grounds of these rules before the Supreme Court.
It is sad to see that before stepping down from power the present federal administration domineeringly proposes unconstitutional decrees instead of ensuring compliance with the Constitution and of seeking a dialogue with indigenous peoples, exposing them to new forms of interference that threaten their physical and cultural survival.
Brasília, 10 October 2002.
Indianist Missionary Council - Cimi
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