[Documents menu] Documents menu

New President of Brazil Will Have to Face Anti-Indian Interests

CIMI—Indianist Missionary Council, Newsletter, No. 145, Brasilia, 5 January 1995

The new president of Brazil, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, has not announced his Indianist policy so far. Several measures, however, must be taken to solve the problems which Indians have been facing for centuries. The main measure should be the demarcation and guarantee of Indian lands, which economic, political, and military groups have been resisting.

According to FUNAI (National Indian Foundation), 47% of all Indian lands heve not been demarcated. At the Ministry of Justice alone, there are fifteen requests for demarcation waiting for the minister to determine the measure to be taken. The most controversial area is the one called Raposa/Serra do Sol, located in the state of Roraima, close to the border with Guyana. The Makuxi, Wapixana, Taurepang, and Igariko' Indians have been fighting for its demarcation for years, but there are strong pressures against it.

The president himself must homologate (confirm) the demarcation of five areas; the documents related to them are already on his desk. Measures must also be taken to begin the demarcation of several areas and to conclude demarcations in course. For this purpose, Fernando Henrique Cardoso must ensure the inclusion of the necessary funds in the budget of the Union and face groups which are against the demarcation.

The only reference made by Fernando Henrique Cardoso to Indians was during his inauguration speech on January 1 at the National Congress. We will strongly ensure equal rights to Indian groups, some of which are living witnesses of the human archaeology and all of which bear witness to our diversity.

However, Fernando Henrique Cardoso did not mention whether he was referring to the specific rights of Indian peoples provided for in the Constitution or to the general rights of every Brazilian citizen. This point must be clarified, because the new minister ofJustice, Nelson Jobim, to whom FUNAI is subordinated, supports the idea of changing demarcation procedures. In his opinion, those who occupy Indian lands could defend their rights before the Public Administration, as if the demarcation were aimed at settling conflicts and not only at showing the bounds of an area. According to the law, invaders should claim their rights before the courts. Nelson Jobim was the rapporteur and main articulator of the constitutional review thet would be carried out in 1994.