News-Letter Nr. 556

The setting up of a commission in Santa Catarina is questioned by CIMI

From the North to the South of the country, politicians have spoken out against the rights of the indigenous population, in the name of progress and development. This time, it was the turn of the Governor of Santa Catarina, Luiz Henrique da Silveira, who met yesterday (26th) with the Minister for Justice, Márcio Thomaz Bastos, to lay out a proposal for setting up a Commission to discuss demarcation of the land set aside for indigenous peoples in the state.

The Governor told the newspaper "A Not¡cia" that the minister had guaranteed to set up a commission made up of representatives from Funai, members of parliament, agriculturalists and the Ministry of Justice. According to him, "The commission had not yet been set up because the documents that we have sent to the Ministry have gone astray".

In a bulletin, the Southern Region of Cimi has come out against the setting up of any commissions to discuss the demarcation of land for indigenous peoples, since the Constitution lays down, in Clauses 231 and 232, that this is the right of the indigenous population. To regulate these procedures, the Executive Power sets out, in Decree 1775/96, the steps that are to be taken by the agency in any demarcation process. This procedure already envisages a 90-day period during which all interested parties can give their opinions concerning the area under study, as long as they are based on legal foundations.

One of the main arguments used by those groups that are against the demarcation of land for indigenous peoples is that, once demarked, they would jeopardize the development and progress of the region, the municipality and the state. This is a fallacy, and shows the degree of prejudice that exists against indigenous people, which has been considered a hurdle to be cleared even since colonial times. As far as these groups are concerned, once these lands are in the hands of these peoples, they will no longer be productive, and will lose their capacity to generate resources. Resistance to demarcation and to guaranteeing the rights of the indigenous people is not justified, especially in view of the fact that the land involved corresponds to only 0.3% of the territory of the State of Santa Catarina and the number of families concerned is no greater than 800, according to the data from Funai.

Some parts of this state had people settled there only recently, and the presence of indigenous peoples cannot be disputed. There is extensive material evidence that the land in question has traditionally been occupied by the Guarani, Kaingang or Xokleng peoples. This is the case, for example, in the Toldo Imbu, Toldo Pinhal, Toldo Chimbangue, Araçarsquoi and La Klãnõ areas.

As far as Cimi is concerned, the Federal government must carry out its responsibilities, and guarantee the indigenous people the right to the demarcation and ownership of their lands, as laid out in the Federal Constitution. Furthermore, if the state government is really concerned with contributing towards sorting out this question, it should look for ways to put right the injustice and mistakes that were made in the past. The State Government must recognize that it illegally ceded deeds to lands belonging to the Union which were colonized, divided into lots and sold to agriculturalists by private companies and make up for this mistake.

The president of the CNBB takes part in the launch of the "We Exist" campaign

In a mass celebrated by Dom Jaime Henrique Chemello, the president of the National Confederation of Brazilian Bishops - CNBB, in Boa Vista Cathedral, on the 18th of last month, the "We Exist - United in Favor of Life and Against Impunity" campaign was officially launched in Roraima, with the aim of strengthening and uniting the fight of the indigenous people, rural and urban workers to reverse social exclusion. The president of the CNBB was the first to sign a petition containing the proposals, claims and demands of the three groups.

In the morning of the same day, Dom Jaime visited the Raposa/Serra do Sol indigenous land, the Surumu mission and the Maturuca settlement, and was impressed by the level of organization of the indigenous people. In the afternoon, the president of the CNBB met with representatives of the three groups, who gave him a report on the problems they have to live with. Representatives of the Roraima Central Trades Union and the Urban Pastoral spoke on behalf of the urban workforce; representatives from the Rural Pastoral Commission and the rural unions spoke on behalf of the rural workers; and the Coordinator of the Roraima Indigenous Peoples' Council and other Indians spoke for the indigenous population.

Meetings are being held to stimulate interchange between these groups in an effort to consolidate the base of this previously unheard of alliance in the state. The first two of these meetings have already taken place, one in the Maturuca settlement on the 4th and 5th of this month, and the other in the rural colony of Apiau, in Penha, on the 22nd and 23rd. The next meeting is set for 30 April and 1 May and will culminate in an event in support of the campaign on Labor Day.

The "We Exist" campaign was first launched on 26 January, during the 3rd World Social Forum in Porto Alegre (RS). In Roraima, the first steps were its launch during the mass celebrated by the president of the CNBB and the start of collecting signatures on the petition that will be sent to the State and Federal Governments.

Bras¡lia, 27 March 2003.
Cimi - Indianist Missionary Council

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