News-Letter Nr. 554

Indigenous movement and allies discuss the paths to a new indigenous policy

After seventy-five days under the Lula administration, the indigenous peoples and their allies are very worried with the increasing wave of violence against them and their rights and, on the other hand, with the lack of effective governmental measures to define a new indigenous policy, especially in relation to the demarcation, guarantee, and respect for indigenous lands.

Given this somewhat uncertain scenario, a seminar will be held on the 18th of this month as a forum for debates on what could be done urgently for the lives and rights of indigenous people to stop being pressured, attacked, and disrespected. The seminar "Respect for Indigenous Rights" was organized by the main indigenous organizations and associations of Brazil together with other entities that have been supporting their struggle in recent decades, with the support from the 6th Coordination and Review Chamber.

The event, which will be divided into four panels, will focus on the historical and constitutional right of indigenous peoples to lands traditionally occupied by them, on the responsibility of the federal administration for demarcating these lands, on the need to protect the natural heritage and riches found in indigenous areas, and on prospects for changing the official indigenous policy.

Among other governmental representatives who will participate in the discussions, the following ones will attend the seminar: the Head of the Civil House, José Dirceu, the Minister of Environment, Marina Silva, the Minister of the Special Human Rights Secretariat, Nilmário Miranda; and the Minister of Justice, Márcio Thomaz Huge.

Tired of waiting

Yesterday (March 12th), about 300 Java‚ and Krahô-Kanela indigenous people, outraged with the neglect of the National Health Foundation (Funasa), seized a vehicle and took the head of the health station of the agency in Gurupi, state of Tocantins, Fortunato Barbosa Silva, hostage. The rebellion began after news got around that representatives of Funasa from Brasília and Palmas would not attend a meeting with the indigenous people that had been scheduled last month.

On February 23, the Chief of the Krahô-Kanela people, Mariano, came to Brasília to meet with Ubiratan Pedrosa Moreira, director of Funasa's Indigenous Health Department (Desai), accompanied by the Deputy Attorney General Armanda Figueiredo to discuss how his people could be covered by the health program of the government for indigenous people. At the meeting, it was decided that the community would be provided with a health station, an infirmary, and a car to transport the sick, and that on March 12 representatives of Desai would hold a meeting with the indigenous people to define what steps would be taken by the agency to assist the community in their health needs.

Fortunato Barbosa said that he only got to know that they would not be attending the meeting at around 10 a.m., when he called the office of the agency in Palmas. Barbosa did not make any comments about the apprehension. "I do not approve of it and I don't criticize it as well. I will adopt a neutral position and will stay here for as long as they see fit," he said.

According to chiefs Mariano Krahô-Kanela and Valter Java‚, the Head of the Health Station and the vehicles of Funasa only will be released when the representatives of the agency in Brasília and Palmas arrive to the village. "The needs of our people are being neglected," they claim.

Since September 2001, the Krahô-Kanela people have been living in the Loroti settlement , which belongs to Incra (National Land Reform Institute), located in the Lagoa da Confusão municipality, two kilometers from their traditional land. Eighty people are living in a half-hectare area under poor health and housing conditions. About 15 persons have been sleeping in each room of the house where they are staying, and this facilitates the spread of diseases to all the community. A conjunctivitis epidemics has contaminated almost all the members of the community. Without any drugs and unable to go to the health station in Gurupi, which is located at a distance of 200 kilometers from the village, they are forced to make do with whatever is available there.

The leaders of the community sent a document to Ailton Francisco, Funasa's regional coordinator in Palmas, requesting his presence and that of Ubiratan in the area. If no concrete decisions are made, the leaders may invade the health station of the agency in Gurupi.

Brasília, 13 March 2003.
Cimi - Indianist Missionary Council

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