News-Letter Nr. 587

Indigenous People Close Funasa Headquarters in Maranhão

Around 450 indigenous leaders of the Guajajara, Krikati, Gavião and Timbira people have been camped out since last Tuesday (28) at the headquarters of the National Health Foundation (Funasa) in São Luiz do Maranhão. The objective of the protest is to draw the attention of the organization in Brasília to the problems related to the health services supplied to these people, as well as applying pressure on the president of Funasa to make him visit São Luiz.

The people have asked to be involved in discussions on the current model of health system adopted in the state, which according to the indigenous people has never existed. "We want to present our proposals. Last week, we were in Imperatriz and the people from Funasa did not turn up. Since they would not go and speak to us, we have come to them and if necessary, we will go to Brasília," said Lourenço, leader of the Krikati people.

According to the leaders, the Indigenous People's Special Sanitary District (DSEI) set up by Funasa in 1999 to plan and organize health services for the people in the states is inoperative in Maranhão and in their list of demands that they are asking to be delivered to the president of the organization the immediate dismissal of the current heads of DSEI and Funasa is requested.

They also demand the establishment of local councils which would respect the different cultures of the indigenous people, DSEI to be granted administrative, budgetary and financial autonomy for actions involving the health of the indigenous people, continuous training and qualification of the professionals involved, respecting the indigenous cultures and the immediate freeing up of financial resources for the current health plans that are more than five months behind in their payments.

In the document sent to the president of Funasa, the indigenous people demand his presence and state that they will not leave the headquarters until they have a definite reply from the organization. "We can't take it a week longer, with things the way they are", said Zequinha Guajajara, vice-president of the Indigenous People's of Maranhão Organization and Coordination Committee.

The proposal for the camp came about in the meeting in Imperatriz that brought together 150 indigenous leaders from all over the state over the period from 20 to 22 October, when an extensive list of proposals to be presented to various organizations responsible for indigenous issues was discussed.

International Court to Judge Crimes against Indigenous People

During the launch of the book "Human Rights: Challenges and Perspectives", held yesterday (29) in the Cultural Center of Brasília, Dom Tomás Balduíno challenged those present with the following question: "Why is there no international court for judging crimes against indigenous people, similar to that which is being set up to judge crimes of property?"

By following up on this suggestion, the indigenous people and their allies will be able to be protected and it will be used to effectively condemn crimes committed against the indigenous people, in view of the fact that, this year alone, 23 indigenous people have been assassinated.

At the same event, deputy Orlando Fantazzini (PT-SP), president of the House of Deputies Human Rights Committee, was shocked by the hate that was being propagated, especially by the media, towards the indigenous people and Cimi. The Committee has just completed its 5th Human Rights Caravan, which visited seven indigenous lands in various regions of the country.

During the Seminar on "Cooperation in Times of Change", held this week in Brasília, the ex-deputy, Plínio de Arruda Sampaio also expressed his concern about the paths direction that the Lula government was taking with respect to the indigenous people. Sampaio voiced his conviction of the symbolic importance of the fight of the people from the perspective of changes and transformations in the present system.

Brasília, 30 October 2003
Cimi - Indianist Missionary Council

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