News-Letter Nr. 565

Indigenous organizations and entities engaged in the indigenous cause join forces in campaign against Constitutional Amendment Bill n. 38

For the third time, Constitutional Amendment Bill n. 38 of 1999, proposed by senator Mozarildo Cavalcante (PPS- state of Roraima), will be voted on in the Federal Senate on June 11. The bill is aimed at limiting the combined size of indigenous territories and conservation units to 50 % of the surface area of each unit of the federation. In addition, it transfers the responsibility for approving the demarcation of indigenous lands to the Federal Senate.

About 30 entities engaged in the indigenous cause, among which Cimi, Inesc, ISA, and CTI, launched the Protected Areas in Peril campaign, which is available for signatures on the website of the Socio-environmental Institute (ISA) and of the Indianist Missionary Council (Cimi) and is directed toward the Federal Senate, Minister José Dirceu of the Civil House, the Minister of the environment, Marina Silva, and the minister of Justice, Márcio Thomaz Bastos. The document highlights what the Constitution of 1988 ensures to indigenous peoples: "With the Constitution of 1988, the Brazilian State ensured the original rights of indigenous peoples to lands traditionally occupied by them as rights that cannot be replaced on an a posteriori basis. The territorial rights of indigenous people are recognized by the Constitution, which determines that the Federal Administration should demarcate their lands. The administrative procedure for demarcating these lands is declaratory in nature, and not the one that institutes those rights. The passage of the above-mentioned amendment constitutes a change in the political decision of the Brazilian State to ensure the right to the land to the first peoples of Brazil."

The entities expressed their concern with the bill and asked the ministers to persuade Senate leaders not to pass it: "For these reasons, we are deeply concerned with the possible passage of Constitutional Amendment Bill n. 38/99, which is why we are hereby asking Your Excellency to persuade leaders in the Federal Senate not to allow it to be passed in order to avoid jeopardizing indigenous rights and the right to a healthy environment ensured by the Federal Constitution."

The campaign is available on the websites and

The Coordinating Board of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon (COIAB) and 37 other indigenous organizations expressed their concerns with the possible passage of Constitutional Amendment Bill n. 38 in a document to be delivered to all Brazilian senators. They believe that the bill constitutes a rupture between the government and indigenous peoples: "We, indigenous peoples, believe in the positive words uttered through the years by president Lula to us and we would not like to see our dreams and hopes defeated by fear. To us, the PEC 38/99 constitutes a political rupture between the Brazilian Government and indigenous peoples and the victory of fear. We don't want this. We don't want to see our sons and daughters suffering hunger and begging in the streets for lack of a piece of land to plant and harvest in and of a river to fish and bathe in. We want to have hope and to see our sons and daughters growing healthily."

In Cimi's opinion, the bill is in clear violation of the constitutional rights of indigenous peoples and points to a posture that the administration of president Fernando Henrique Cardoso did not assume. It can only be passed with the support from governmental allies in Congress. Therefore, we expect the Lula administration to reject this Constitutional Amendment Bill.

Senators join Parliamentary Front

The Parliamentary Front in Defense of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is winning allies in the Senate. In addition to more than 80 representatives, six senators joined the Front, the purpose of which is to defend the rights of indigenous peoples in the National Congress.

The list of senators who joined the Front includes Sibá Machado (Workers' Party-state of Acre), Fátima Cleide (Workers' Party-state of Rond"nia), João Capiberibe (Brazilian Socialist Party- state of Amap), Tião Viana (Workers' Party-state of Acre), Geraldo Mesquita (Brazilian Socialist Party -state of Acre), and Ana Júlia (Workers' Party-state of Par). Efforts to persuade other senators to join the Front are just beginning, and many other congresspersons are expected to join it over the next few days.

Brasília, 29 May 2003.
Cimi - Indianist Missionary Council

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