By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – The President of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, is scheduled to sign a decree on Monday, April 20th, demarking three areas of land in the Northern region of Brazil as indigenous lands, two in the state of Amazonas and in one in the state of Para. Together the areas total 232,500 hectares and will house four indigenous ethnic groups. The demarcation comes after a week of protests in Brasilia by several indigenous communities.
“The federal government met with representatives of the National Articulation of the Indigenous People and Miguel Rossetto, the Secretary General of the Presidency, reaffirmed the (Administration’s) commitment with the rights of the indigenous population,” said a note released by the Executive office.
Rossetto met with the representatives of more than 200 indigenous tribes last week, after more than 1,500 indigenous descended up on the country’s capital, Brasilia, to protest the delays in demarcation of indigenous territories by the Rousseff Administration.
The protest organized by the National Articulation of the Indigenous People of Brazil (APIB), set up an Acampamento Terra Livre (Free Land Camp) on the lawn across Brazil’s Congressional building to draw public attention to the on-going threats to indigenous peoples’ rights in the country.
Participants from the different tribes shared experiences and common problems faced by these communities and discussed ways to pressure the federal government to combat more rigorously farmers and landless rural workers who invade indigenous territory clearing land for agriculture or grazing grounds for cattle.
Critics say that the Rousseff Administration is very slow in its demarcation and ratification of indigenous land, and according to Federal Prosecutor Deborah Duprat ‘the few victories won in 1988 through the Constitution are being threatened’.
The 1988 Constitution called for the identification and demarcation of indigenous land as well as the withdrawal of all non-indigenous from these territories by 1993. According to APIB there are at least twenty-one territories that have already been identified and are waiting for demarcation.
Among the areas to be demarked as indigenous territory Monday is land near the Belo Monte Hydroelectric Plant, a project which has been severely criticized by both indigenous leaders and environmentalists.