Indigenous Brazilians demand end to impunity ahead of election

By Carlos Meneses

Manaus, Brazil, Sep 5 (EFE).- Indigenous leaders and representatives of minorities marched on Monday’s Amazon Day in the Brazilian city of Manaus to demand an end to impunity against attacks they attribute to “threats” of the government of Jair Bolsonaro 27 days out from the presidential election.

The demonstration, also planned in other cities, coincided with the Cry of the Excluded, organized by the Catholic Church since 1995 in defense of minorities to counterweight the celebrations for the independence of Brazil, which will be 200 years old Wednesday.

“Brazil: 200 years of (in)dependence for whom?” is the motto chosen for the 2022 edition.

Representatives of indigenous peoples traveled long distances, by land and water, to reach Manaus, capital of Amazonas state, from where they began a march of about five kilometers.

The most repeated word was “justice.” Alessandra Macedo, of the Munduruku ethnic group attended in search of answers for the Aug. 5, 2020 murder of two young brothers from her village during a police raid.

“We want justice and for the government to repair what it did and give us security. The police cannot come in (to our village) like this,” she told EFE.

According to a report by the Missionary Indigenous Council (Cimi), an entity linked to the Catholic Church, invasions of indigenous reserves grew in 2021 to 305 cases, almost three times more than in 2018, a year before the far-right Bolsonaro assumed the presidency.

Last year, 176 murders of indigenous people were also reported, just six fewer than in 2020, which then was the highest number of homicides since Cimi started recording the data based on official sources in 2014.

“We are facing violence that is related to our natural wealth,” such as “gold, wood, fish” and “this aggression ends up killing indigenous cultures,” said Archbishop of Manaus Leonardo Ulrich Steiner, appointed first cardinal of the Amazon on Aug. 27 by Pope Francis.

The indigenous and environmental movements hold the head of state responsible for the fact that the Amazon has become a “lawless land,” where illegal loggers, miners and drug gangs are increasingly present.

Bolsonaro, who is running for re-election on Oct. 2, refuses to demarcate new indigenous reserves, defends mineral exploitation in those territories and has even blamed the record devastating Amazon fires on the indigenous peoples.

The president, second in polls behind former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, also believes that the agricultural industry is more important than conserving the largest rainforest on the planet at this time, as he has stated in interviews.

“As an indigenous people, we feel threatened by Bolsonaro. I feel threatened by him. We are afraid,” says Macedo.

Terezinha Sateré-Mawé, 48, attended with her children and nephews from the Gaviao village on the banks of the Tarumã-Açu river.

“We are here to talk (…) because of so many things that have been happening, because of the massacres of our peoples throughout Brazil. That is something that deeply outrages us,” the leader of the Sateré-Mawé ethnic group told EFE.

She denounced that the Amazon is being “demolished” and its rivers “contaminated” by ‘garimpeiros’ (illegal miners) who invade their territories in search of precious metals.

She fears that the continuous deforestation, which has skyrocketed since Bolsonaro took power, will end one of the sources of income for her village, such as handicrafts made with seeds and fruits of the trees from the jungle.

“And that’s why I’m here today shouting: Respect our rights!” EFE


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