News-Letter Nr. XXX

Finally, Administrative Ruling for the Cantagalo Land is Signed

After months of pressure, the minister of Justice, Márcio Thomaz Bastos, signed an administrative ruling officially recognizing the Cantagalo indigenous land of the Guarani people. The ruling was signed yesterday (the 26th) at the auditorium of the Funai office in Brasília in a ceremony attended by the minister of Justice, Márcio Thomaz Bastos, of Land Development, Miguel Rosseto, and of the Cities, Olívio Dutra, as well as by the president of Funai and indigenous leaders. The Cantagalo land comprises 286 hectares where about 170 people live and it is located in the municipalities of Viamão and Porto Alegre in the state of Rio Grande do Sul.

During the ceremony, the president of Funai, Mércio Pereira Gomes, said that he was touched and pleased with the first visit of the minister of Justice to Funai. "This is the beginning of a new period for Funai." Mércio said that this was the beginning of his work with the Guarani people and that Funai will give priority to them in 2004. The president said that the delay to sign the administrative ruling had been caused by the "disorientation of Funai" before he took office and by the fact that the government had adopted an extremely "cautious" position in relation to certain actions.

According to the minister of Justice, the event was a symbolic act of changes in the path followed by the federal administration in relation to indigenous affairs. "The votes that were given to the Lula administration were votes for changes and for a transformation in Brazilian society. We want a mass democracy in which all excluded individuals can access the natural goods of life, among whom indigenous peoples. May this symbolic act be a step toward these changes." At the end of his speech, he said that the federal administration wants "all indigenous lands to be demarcated and officially recognized as such before the end of its term."

All the procedures that precede the signing of the ruling had been completed two years ago within the ministry of Justice. In June of this year, when over 50 leaders of the Guarani, Kaingang and Xokleng peoples from the states Santa Catarina, Rio Grande do Sul and Paraná camped in front of the ministries in Brasília, the signing of this administrative ruling was one of the claims put forward by these peoples.

On that occasion, an official letter of the ministry of Justice dated July 2 was delivered to the leaders setting a deadline for the conclusion of the formal procedures related to the four lands located in the south region of the country for which administrative rulings were still pending. For the Cantagalo land, 30 days was the deadline set by the Ministry. Almost five months later, after much pressure applied by different indigenous leaders who came to Brasília, the administrative ruling was finally signed.

Of the four lands, two had their administrative rulings signed already, namely, the La Klaño land of the Xokleng people and the Cantagalo land of the Guarani people. The other two, the Palmas and Toldo Imbu lands of the Kaingang people, are yet to have their procedures completed within the ministry of Justice. Deadlines of 90 and 40 days, respectively, had also been set for the conclusion of all procedures related to these two lands, but they expired long ago and nothing happened so far.

Even after being forced to wait for so long, the signing of the administrative ruling in question was seen as a victory by indigenous leaders. "We have been fighting for this land for 30 years. Now we will have more space to grow our crops and live in our land. It was a victory," chief Afonso da Costa said.

Legal Operators Discuss Indigenous Issue

Moved by the need to ensure a special and appropriate treatment to indigenous peoples, the Federal Attorney's Office (AGU), together with the ministry of Justice and the Federal Prosecution Service, held the "Seminar on Indigenous Issues" last Tuesday (the 25th). The seminar was attended by the Federal Attorney General, chief justice Álvaro Augusto Ribeiro Costa, lawyers, prosecutors, anthropologists, students, and indigenous leaders.

"Brazil is not prepared to talk with indigenous peoples respecting their rights. The old Brazil is only prepared to integrate indigenous people into the non-indigenous society," said Domingos Barreto Tukano, representative of the Federation of Indigenous Organizations of the Negro River (Foirn), who made a presentation about the situation of indigenous peoples. Barreto said that many things must change, particularly in what regards issues related to indigenous lands, such as their demarcation, and the development of an indigenous policy with the participation of indigenous peoples. "The indigenous movement wants to help out in building a new Brazil," he said.

The anthropologist and professor at the National Museum João Pacheco de Oliveira described what being an indigenous person is like. According to him, the prejudice against indigenous individuals that prevailed in the colonial days is still present today in Brazil not only in specific areas such as the law, but in much of our society. "We must see indigenous persons as contemporary individuals with a future." Pacheco called on the legal operators attending the seminar to carry out deeper anthropological studies to deal with the issue in a better way, as according to him "the indigenous issue has to be addressed with passion and a clear mind."

Federal prosecutor Débora Duprat spoke about prejudice in the specific context of the law and said that seminars like the one in question were important to provide a more solid foundation for the actions of legal professionals. Duprat provided different examples of what she considers to be prejudicial ways by which the courts deal with the rights of indigenous peoples. According to her, at the executive, legislative, and judiciary branch level, the Brazilian State sees indigenous peoples as incapable of discussing topics within their interest. "They act in anticipation, as if they knew others better than themselves. The State keeps this discussion to itself and does not hear what the communities have to say. It thinks that by hearing what two or three indigenous individuals say they can know what all indigenous peoples want," and she warned that "if we are not careful about this, we will never reach our objectives."

Brasília, 27 November 2003
Cimi - Indianist Missionary Council

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