By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Nearly four thousand indigenous from several ethnicities around Brazil are camping out in Brasilia until Friday to participate in Terra Livre (Free Land), an annual gathering in defense of the rights of indigenous people.
So far, the gathering has been peaceful, but a memo from the Agriculture Ministry to its staff, says there is a risk ‘of invasion of buildings and ‘threats’ against public servants.
Despite not registering any violent episodes during the fifteen years of gathering in the nation’s capital, the Bolsonaro Administration seems to believe that there is a risk.
Last week, Justice Minister, Sérgio Moro, authorized the use of the National Force in the capital for the thirty-three days forecasting protests not only by the indigenous but also by those against the approval of the social security reform, now being discussed in Congress.
Representatives from the five regions of Brazil and even other countries are expected to join several indigenous organizations, including the Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin, the Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests and Alliance of Indigenous Peoples of the Indonesian Archipelago in Brazil’s capital until Friday.
The main demand of Brazilian indigenous leaders at the gathering, this year under the theme ‘Indigenous blood. In the veins, the struggle for land and territory’, is to prevent Congress from approving decree 870/19.
The decree transfers the responsibility for the demarcation of indigenous lands to the Ministry of Agriculture, as well as the National Indian Foundation (Funai) from the Ministry of Justice and to the Ministry of Women, Family and Human Rights.
Also on the indigenous’ agenda are changes the easing of rules for firearm possession, which these communities feel would threaten even further their lives.
On Wednesday, indigenous leaders met with Senate president, Davi Alcolumbre, and hope to meet with other government officials from the Bolsonaro administration. The government has signaled that it is willing to listen to the indigenous’ concerns.
“The government is committed to providing the indigenous direct access to different federal agencies, without intermediaries, in order to listen to problems and suggestions, and to make every effort to solve the challenges and improve the living conditions of Brazil’s indigenous people,” said government spokesperson, Otávio Rêgo Barros, in a press conference.