News-Letter Nr. 573

GTME wants indigenous policy of the lula administration to be defined

Over six months have gone by since Lula took office and his administration has not implemented any concrete changes in the indigenous policy so far. Meanwhile, the situation of violence and of instability in the indigenous agency continues, leaving indigenous peoples exposed to a scenario of extreme fragility and perplexity. As a symbolic expression of this chaotic scenario, even the head office of the indigenous agency (Funai) was partially burned down as a result of a suspected arson. In this context, the indigenous movement and its allies are promoting meetings to debate alternatives and strategies and join forces to pressure the government to take urgent and effective measures to change this situation.

One of these initiatives was taken by the Missionary Evangelical Working Group - GTME, which brought together its members and guests from the indigenous movement, Cimi and the Native Amazon Operation at the seminar "Indigenous Policies and the GTME Pastoral Activities," held at the Chapada dos GuimarÆes plateau, state of Mato Grosso, on July 16-18. In a manifesto, they pointed out the inaction of the Lula administration in implementing its program and demanded that its "commitments toward indigenous peoples" be put into practice immediately in all of their dimensions. In the document, they regret that fact that up till now the government has been more interested in pleasing anti-indigenous interests and in ensuring more space to them than in meeting the needs of indigenous communities and they demanded positive signs of its intentions towards indigenous peoples, such as the official confirmation of the bounds of the Raposa/Serra do Sol indigenous land in the state of Roraima.

Regarding the indigenous health policy implemented by the National Health Foundation (FUNAI), the manifesto points to serious problems caused by a system of agreements imposed on indigenous and pro-indigenous organizations, according to which "everything has to be done based on the logic of the government, which has been acting in a unilateral and domineering way." Given these facts, they propose "the urgent implementation of the Arouca Law and of the decisions made at the National Indigenous Health Conferences, through the creation of a specific agency in the Ministry of Health in charge of managing indigenous health issues" based on the so-called Special Indigenous Health Districts (DSEIs) and Indigenous Health Agents that respect the traditional health practices of each people.

In what regards indigenous education, they support the establishment of a secretariat to ensure the right of indigenous people to develop their own political-educational projects. Education is seen as an important and necessary aspiration of indigenous peoples, but it should be ensured in tune with their unique customs, traditions and teaching methods. Without respect for these precepts, they stressed that education will not ensure the preservation and enhancement of the traditional culture of indigenous people and will break the communities apart and destroy their culture.

In the final part of the document, they mentioned the acts of violence being committed against indigenous peoples, which caused the death of 18 indigenous persons this year alone as a result of the current scenario of undefined measures, mistakes, and inaction. "We hope that this scenario will lead the Lula administration to reaffirm and implement the commitments it assumed immediately, so that the problems pointed out may be eliminated. We are willing to provide our collaboration in this process," they say at the end of the manifesto.

According to Egon Heck, Cimi's executive secretary, who attended the meeting, these have been important moments not only because of the proposals made and positions assumed, but also because of the combination of efforts they have been fostering in pursuance of a new indigenous policy, with comprehensive inputs from the indigenous movement and its allies.

Brasília, 24 July 2003.
Cimi - Indianist Missionary Council

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