News-Letter Nr. 543

Campaign for the official confirmation of the bounds of the Raposa/Serra do Sol indigenous land

In the past 30 years of struggle for the recognition of the Raposa/Serra do Sol indigenous land, many campaigns involving national and international organizations were carried out. Following up on these initiatives, the Rainforest Foundation carried out a campaign for President Fernando Henrique Cardoso to officially confirm the bounds of the Raposa/Serra do Sol indigenous land, which was demarcated in 1998. The initiative was taken after the Indigenous Council of Roraima (CIR) was awarded the 2002 Human Rights Prize last Thursday and the Chico Mendes prize on the 10th. The entity was awarded those prizes in recognition of its struggle and work in favor of the indigenous peoples of the state Roraima.

Seventy-six organizations from Europe, Indonesia, Malaysia, United States, Canada, Suriname, and Brazil signed the document. Following up on the Rainforest initiative, the CIR will be sending a letter with a signed petition to the President next Monday, the 23rd, asking him to officially confirm the bounds of the area.

The e-mail is available for those who wish to sign the signed petition.

In Roraima, the situation is also tense in the SÆo Marcos indigenous land, in the Quiabo hill, next to the Pacaraima village, located on the border between Brazil and Venezuela, where the encroachment of invaders, deforestation, and acts of physical and moral violence against indigenous people are worrying the indigenous organizations of the state. Last week, after various attempts to build a fence limiting the size of the village with the participation of officials of federal agencies, 25 people including indigenous people, Funai staff members, and a team in charge of inspecting the SÆo Marcos land began to fence off the village and were approached by 200 people armed with clubs, knives, and iron bars who attacked and expelled the team from the area.

Faced with this scenario of neglect on the part of the competent public authorities, the Association of Indigenous Peoples of the State of Roraima (APIRR) issued a motion of repudiation asking allied and supporting organizations to express their position publicly. The document asks the competent authorities to express their position also and to take appropriate measures.

A new Indigenous Policy is being built

A series of meetings and seminars are being held and studies are being carried out on the last days of this year in various regions of the country. Most participants in these meetings are representatives of indigenous peoples. Their desire, as well as that of their allies, is to pave the way for the implementation of a new indigenous policy to replace the one presently in force, which is based on an authoritarian and biased framework.

Some consensual positions are taking shape in these various forums, among which the urgent need to settle the issue of indigenous lands by demarcating them, removing invaders from them, and ensuring the territories of all the indigenous peoples of the Country. For this purpose, the new President should sign immediately all the decrees he will have on his desk after he is inaugurated. The same kind of action is expected from the minister of Justice, who will have over a dozen decrees to sign. In addition, mechanisms and deadlines should be urgently established to define and implement the new indigenous policy by building a new framework with the necessary political power and swiftness to respond to our yearnings and to the challenges facing us.

These were some of the issues that were discussed and consolidated during three days of debates between representatives of 30 indigenous peoples and over a dozen organizations that deal with indigenous issues. The Seminar "Bases for a new indigenous policy-2," sponsored by the LACED - Laboratory for Research on Ethnic, Cultural and Development Issues, the APOINME - Association of the Indigenous Peoples of the Northeast, Minas Gerais and Esp¡rito Santo, and the COIAB - Coordinating Board for the Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon Region, was held at the National Museum of Rio de Janeiro on December 16-18. Representatives of various governmental agencies attended the seminar and raised critical requirements to foster a deep change in the current indigenous policy. Cimi's legal advisor, Paulo Machado GuimarÆes, and its executive secretary, Egon Dion¡sio Heck, represented Cimi at the event.

In 2003 'the Struggle Continues, Comrades'

Because of the new year's eve festivities, the staff in charge of publishing the newsletter "The world around us" will go on a short vacation knowing that they have won important battles in the struggle to disseminate our walk toward "A Land without Evil." In the fifty messages that were sent out this year, we could follow with satisfaction the fulfillment, through the ballot boxes, of a 13-year popular dream, as well as the success of the fraternity campaign, which made the indigenous cause stand out in society. Feeding the hope of new times, particularly in relation to political aspects that have a bearing on our struggle, we will resume the publication of our newsletters on January 2, knowing that we can always count on your solidarity as friends of this cause.

Brasília, 19 December 2002
Indianist Missionary Council - Cimi

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