Tag Archives: Brazil

Stunning Photos Show Life of Remote Indigenous Tribes in Brazil

Bej Indian in the Xingu river, state of Mato Grosso, Brazil (Photo: Ricardo Stuckert)

Images offer rare glimpse into life of Brazilian tribes

These stunning photographs show the indigenous Kamaiurá people diving underwater and swimming beneath a waterfall in the Amazonian basin.

The tribe, which has a population of just over 500, lives in the Upper Xingu region around Lake Ipavu, four miles from the Kuluene River.

These incredible images offer a rare glimpse of life within remote Brazilian tribes and show women diving underwater

These images offer a rare glimpse of life within remote Brazilian tribes and show women diving underwater (Photo: Ricardo Stuckert)

These images offer a rare glimpse of life within remote Brazilian tribes and show women diving underwater (Photo: Ricardo Stuckert)

These images offer a rare glimpse of life within remote Brazilian tribes and show women diving underwater (Photo: Ricardo Stuckert)

The photos provide an overview of the contemporary situation of indigenous people in Brazil.

The Kamaiurá, whose name means ‘a raised platform to keep meat, pots and pans’, were first contacted by the outside world in 1884.

Its population was ravaged by disease in the 1950s.

Brazilian authorities declared the region a national park in 1961 to prevent the spread of deadly epidemics.


A member of the Tanawy Xucuru Cariri tribe stands beside the So Francisco river in the state of Alagoas. (Picture: Ricardo Stuckert)

Tribes men wearing traditional colourful clothing looked to the skies as they stand in the branches of a tree above a stretch of water in Brazil. (Photo: Ricardo Stuckert)

A tribesman on horseback looks out across a stretch of water as the sun sets. (Photo: Ricardo Stuckert)

The images were captured by photographer Ricardo Stuckert while spending time living with the indigenous community two years ago.

Stuckert said: ‘The pictures show the traditional way of life of these people who live in harmony with nature. They provide an overview of the contemporary situation of the indigenous people in Brazil.

“I’ve been a professional photographer for 29 years, and have been photographing Brazil’s Indigenous people since 1996, when I visited an Yanomany tribe. Since then, I have become a strong supporter of Indigenous people.”

Tribesmen perform a ceremonial dance in another of the photographer’s stunning images. (Photo: Ricardo Stuckert)

The collection of photographs has now been published in a book titled Brazilian Indians, as part of an effort by Stuckert to help them.

Uncontacted Amazon Tribe Members Allegedly Killed By Gold Miners In Brazil

Members of an uncontacted tribe in Brazil’s Amazon Basin were photographed by air in 2008. (Ho New / Reuters)

At least 10 members of an uncontacted tribe in Brazil’s Amazon Basin were allegedly killed last month by illegal gold miners, according to Survival International.

The organization, which advocates for indigenous rights, said the massacre included women and children and may have wiped out one-fifth of the tribe.

Members of the tribe were gathering eggs along a river in the Javari Valley, in the country’s remote west, when they came across the miners, The New York Times reported. The miners later boasted about the slaughter at a bar in the nearest town, and even showed off a hand-carved paddle they claimed to have stolen as a trophy.

“It was crude bar talk,” Leila Silvia Burger Sotto-Maior, Funai’s coordinator for uncontacted and recently contacted tribes, told the Times. “They even bragged about cutting up the bodies and throwing them in the river.”

Funai is Brazil’s agency for indigenous affairs and its budget was recently cut under President Michel Temer. Survival International described Temer’s government as “fiercely anti-Indian, and has close ties to the country’s powerful and anti-indigenous agribusiness lobby.”

Survival International called the attack “genocidal” and said Temer and his government bore “heavy responsibility” for it. According to Stephen Corry, Survival International’s director:

“The slashing of Funai’s funds has left dozens of uncontacted tribes defenseless against thousands of invaders ― gold miners, ranchers and loggers ― who are desperate to steal and ransack their lands. All these tribes should have had their lands properly recognized and protected years ago ― the government’s open support for those who want to open up indigenous territories is utterly shameful, and is setting indigenous rights in Brazil back decades.”

At least two other tribes in the region have seen their land invaded and are now surrounded by ranchers and others, Survival International reported.

Adelson Kora Kanamari, leader of the Warikama Djapar tribe, told the Amazon Real portal that the situation for indigenous people in the region was “very critical” and that between 18 and 21 people have been killed in attacks, AFP reported.

The invaders are landowners, hunters, miners,” Kanamari said. “Many (indigenous) are being killed in isolation, but we don’t know the exact dates or number of deaths.”

HuffPost, Sept 11, 2017


Brazilian Supreme Court Upholds Land Rights of Indigenous People

A member of Brazil’s riot police trains his gun at Brazilian Indians. Photograph: Gregg Newton/Reuters

Land rights activists applaud rejection of case brought by Brazilian state that claimed it was due compensation for award of territory to native inhabitants

The Brazilian supreme court has ruled in favour of two tribes in a case that is being hailed as a significant victory for indigenous land rights.

The unanimous decision – which went against the state of Mato Grosso do Sul – settled a dispute over land traditionally occupied by indigenous people and ordered the authorities to respect the demarcation of land.

Amid increasing conflict over land and diminishing rights for indigenous people in the country, the south-western Brazilian state had sought compensation of about 2bn reais (£493m) from the Brazilian government after land was declared as the territory of the Nambikwara and Pareci tribes.

A third case, involving Rio Grande do Sul state, was adjourned for 15 days.

“This is an important step towards achieving justice for indigenous people in Brazil,” said Tonico Benites, a Guarani leader. “This gives us hope the judiciary will protect our rights, which are guaranteed by the constitution and international law.”

Activists had feared judges would uphold a recommendation from the attorney general’s office that any tribe not occupying its ancestral land when Brazil’s new constitution came into force on 5 October 1988 would lose its right to live there – a time limit that had been called the worst blow to indigenous rights since the military dictatorship ended in 1985.

But Sarah Shenker, a campaigner with Survival International, said feelings were running high in Brazil against indigenous rights: “If the judges apply the same thinking in the third ruling, in theory [indigenous] land rights should be protected. But there is such a strong anti-indigenous campaign in Brazil at the moment that we have to be very careful.”

Benites said indigenous leaders would now work to overturn the 1988 cut-off date – a plan signed by President  Michel Temer last month and which critics claim is to win favour with the powerful agribusiness lobby, known as the ruralistas.

The deadline would not only halt new demarcations of indigenous land but also legitimise claims by ranchers and wealthy farmers who have long coveted Indian territories.

“It is a very cynical move,” said Juliana de Paula Batista, a lawyer working with the Socio-environmental Institute in Brasilia. “Since many indigenous people were violently expelled from their ancestral land in the colonial and military eras, they could not possibly have been living on this land in 1988.”

Campaigners have claimed Temer is using land rights as a bargaining chip to shore up his unpopular government.

Luiz Henrique Eloy Amado, a lawyer for Brazil’s Association of Indigenous Peoples (Apib), said: “The Temer government wants to remain at all costs, which requires the votes of the ruralista bloc.”

The attorney general’s recommendation of a time limit was greeted as a triumph in a video by ruralista federal deputy Luiz Carlos Heinze, potentially resulting in the dismissal of 90% of ongoing indigenous land claims. Hundreds of indigenous territories around Brazil are awaiting demarcation.

The Guarani-Kaiowás occupy only a fraction of their ancestral territories in Mato Grosso do Sul and their decades-long struggle has caused violent conflict with cattle ranchers and soy and sugar cane farmers.

Fiona Watson, director of campaigns for Survival International, estimated that 45,000 Guarani-Kaiowás would lose rights to land under the proposed cut-off point, as would other tribes across the south and north-east.

The 1988 deadline, the marco temporal, has triggered major protests across Brazil, organised by the Apib under the banner: “Our history did not start in 1988, no to the time limit”. Hundreds of people converged on Brasilia for the supreme court ruling on Wednesday.

Last week, 48 indigenous organisations and civil society bodies signed a letter to the UN high commissioner for human rights and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, denouncing violations since the 2016 visit of UN special rapporteur Victoria Tauli-Corpus, who noted a “worrying regression in the protection of indigenous people’s rights”.

Brazil has experienced a rise in homicides related to rural land disputes, with 37 people killed in the first five months of this year, eight more than died over the same period in 2016, according to the Pastoral Land Commission, a non-profit group.

Eliseu Lopes, a Guarani leader from Mato Grosso do Sul, expressed relief at the outcome: “The land conflict is already killing us. Imagine what it would be like if the proposal were approved,” he said. “It would legitimise the violence against us. The vote doesn’t solve all our problems, but it gives us some breathing space.”

By the Guardian published on August 17, 2017 


Brazil: Increase in Land killings as Political Crisis Threatens Amazon

The 14th ‘Free Terra’ Camp in Praça dos Ipês, Brasília, during April 24-28 2017. Over 4,000 representatives from 200 indigenous peoples from all regions of the country were present in a large demonstration of strength of the indigenous movement. Photo: NINJA Media / National Indigenous Mobilization via Flickr (CC BY-SA).

By Joe Sandler Clarke & Sam Cowie / Greenpeace Energydesk 

There has been a significant increase in the number of indigenous people and environmental activists killed over land disputes in Brazil, as human rights experts warn of a dangerous political mood in the nation.

New research shared with Energydesk by Brazilian human rights NGO Comissão Pastoral da Terra (CPT), shows that 37 people have been killed in the first six months of the year in rural land conflicts, eight more than at the same time in 2016.

The data comes as President Temer’s right-wing government has cut funding dramatically for the country’s indigenous rights agency, Funai.

CPT, which has been collecting data on rural violence since 1985, has found that so far the number of people killed in these disputes is set to exceed last year’s figures, when 61 people died.

At the end of April, violence against indigenous people in Brazil made international headlines, as 13 members of the Gamela community in Maranhão state were attacked by farmers wielding machetes in brutal land dispute.

A couple of week’s earlier, nine people were stabbed and shot over a territorial dispute in Mato Grosso state, in the Amazon.

Jeane Bellini, national coordinator of CPT told Energydesk that recent years have a significant increase in the number of people being killed in rural land conflicts.

Bellini believes the current political turmoil in Brazil, the former President Dilma Rousseff was ousted last year while sitting President Michel Temer is embroiled in a corruption scandal, has helped fuel the violence:

“Rural violence has accelerated under President Temer. Actually, it isn’t only the government. I would say that the political instability created by all of those irresponsible people in congress, as well as Temer and his government have added. I mean, they’re doing things that are completely against the needs and the rights of the people.”

Indigenous rights agency cut

Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, told Energydesk that there is a close correlation between the government’s moves to cut the agency and the increase in violence. She explained:

“There is increased violence because the offices of Funai at the state levels are not functioning anymore. Funai is the only government agency trusted by Indigenous people. People look up to Funai to protect them. Now there is nobody trying to protect them.”

Tauli-Corpuz visited Brazil at the end of last year and found government agencies unable to function. She told Energydesk in December that she visited Funai regional offices which had no staff:

“We went to the office in Bahia and there was no one there. There have been huge cutbacks, and they have continued since I came back from my trip … I have a sense that the situation in the country is deteriorating.”

Months later, the UNSR said that the recommendations she made to Brazilian officials have not been addressed.

In May, a congressional committee led by a powerful farming lobby moved to replace the indigenous rights agency with a body controlled by the justice ministry – a move which campaigners believe could have terrible consequences.


According to Bellini, a culture of impunity around rural killings in Brazil is also to blame for the worsening situation. CPT states that of the 1,800 killings the organisation has recorded since 1985, only 112 ended up in court with very few ending with conviction.

She said: “Given all the political instability in Brazil since last year, those who are looking to accumulate land, in whatever way they can, have found an opportunity to accelerate the process and apparently they feel quite convinced of impunity.”

In response to this story, Amnesty International Brazil – which uses CPT’s data in its own work – sent us the following statement.

“Amnesty International believes, that in the light of the recent attack on the Gamela community in Maranhão state, it is absolutely essential that the Brazilian government makes a strong statement committing to upholding the Constitutional obligations to demarcate and deliver Indigenous Peoples’ ancestral lands.

“Funai must be strengthened, by making available necessary financial resources, and recent appointments to the agency should be reviewed, in order to ensure that those in leadership positions in the agency have the necessary political independence to do their job.

“The Brazilian government must ensure security to human rights defenders and withdraw any initiatives to criminalize or limit their work.” 

Joe Sandler-Clarke is a UK-based journalist specialising in investigative and public interest stories. His writing has been published in the Guardian, Independent, The Sunday Times, VICE and others, and he curently works at Greenpeace UK.

Sam Cowie is a freelance journalist based in São Paulo, Brazil.

This article was originally published on Greenpeace Energydesk.

Read more: Amazon deforestation rises as government moves to weaken Indigenous protections.

Article originally published in Ecologist on Jun 7, 2017


“We Don’t Believe In Words Anymore”: Indigenous Peoples Stand Against Brazil’s Temer Government

Munduruku warriors at the roadblock. Photo by Mauricio Torres

Red Power Media | May 09, 2017

by Sue Branford and Maurício Torres, Mongabay

Indigenous groups are making a defiant stand against the current wave of fiercely anti-Indian policies being rapidly implemented by Brazil’s Temer administration and Congress.

Protests blossomed last week in Brasilia where a four-day demonstration — the largest in the nation’s history — brought together over 4,000 indigenous leaders from more than 200 tribes seeking government redress of grievances. The protesters were met with teargas.

Likewise, a peaceful land occupation by members of the Gamela tribe in Maranhão state ended in violence when their camp was raided by ranchers and hired gunmen who beat the Indians brutally, even hacking off hands with machetes.

In the Amazon, members of the Munduruku tribe, armed with bows and arrows, set up a roadblock on the Transamazonian highway, creating a 40 kilometer (25 mile) backup of trucks loaded with this year’s soy harvest.

The blockade came in protest of the government’s refusal to demarcate the Indians’ lands as assured under the 1988 Brazilian Constitution. The commodities roadblock also sent a clear signal to the bancada ruralista, Brazil’s agribusiness lobby, which dominates Congress and the administration, and which pushed for the dramatic upsurge in federal initiatives rolling back indigenous land rights and protections.

A glimpse of the traffic backup at the Munduruku blockade. Video by Mauricio Torres

Violence in Maranhão

On 30 April gunmen and ranchers attacked an indigenous camp in Maranhão, an impoverished state in northeast Brazil, long dominated by powerful landowners led by the Sarney family (one of whom is Pres. Temer’s environment minister, José Sarney Filho).

The violence was triggered by events two days earlier, when several dozen Gamela Indians occupied disputed land near the town of Viana, 214 kilometers (133 miles) from the state capital of São Luis.

This land was traditionally occupied by the Gamela, but the military dictatorship (1964-1985) illegally ejected them from it. Ranchers then occupied the area, clearing the forest, planting pasture and raising cattle. As years passed, the ranchers began to see themselves as the legitimate owners.

About 300 Gamela families remained in the region, however, determined to regain their land despite the slight odds of doing so. Regardless of the legitimacy of their claim, the Indians received little help from authorities, with the federal Indian agency FUNAI, under pressure from the ranchers, refusing to begin the process of marking out the boundaries of the Gamela territory.

Three years ago the Indians went to court to force the ranchers to relinquish the land, but the case was stalled by bureaucratic delays. With their living conditions worsening year-by-year, the Gamela became convinced that they would only survive as a people if they took action. So they began a series of retomadas or re-occupations of their traditional land.

They timed the latest reoccupation to coincide with both the indigenous protest in Brasilia and a national one-day general strike, the first in 21 years, organized by Brazil’s trade unions in protest over the Temer government’s severe austerity measures.

A cell phone photo taken just before the attack on the Gamela camp, showing a police car and group of ranchers. Photo courtesy of Cimi

It was a risky strategy, particularly in view of the strong anti-indigenous sentiment in Brasilia, and the local ranchers responded rapidly. According to one report, they sent out a WhatsApp message, calling on ranchers and their gunmen to gather near the indigenous camp.

Messages supporting the ranchers flooded the media. Federal deputy, Aluisio Guimarães Mendes Filho, (the state’s Public Security Secretary during the government of Roseana Sarney, another member of the Sarney clan), spoke out in a local radio interview, accusing the Gamela of being “troublemakers” and encouraging violence against them.

“He fanned the flames,” said one Indian later.

The ranchers had a barbecue, drank a lot of alcohol, and became increasingly abusive in their talk about the Indians. It was clear that an attack was being planned, but when it happened, the military police (who had arrived on site earlier) didn’t intervene.

The Indians were vastly out-numbered and could do little but flee into the forest when attacked by men wielding rifles and machetes.

According to Cimi (the Catholic Missionary Council), 13 Indians were injured. Two had both hands lopped off. Others were severely beaten; one had a fractured skull. One of the injured is Kum ‘Tum Gamela, a former priest, who has received numerous death threats in the past.

The Ministry of Justice issued a press statement in which it promised to investigate “the incident that involved small farmers and supposed Indians in the hamlet of Bahias.” The term “supposed” generated a wave of indigenous anger and was quickly deleted from the statement. Later the term “small farmers” was also removed, as it was widely criticized as being a euphemism for the gunmen employed by the ranchers. In the end, the statement merely said that that the ministry would investigate a “rural conflict.”

The Human Rights Commission of the prestigious Brazilian Bar Association (OAB) is to request help from the human rights body, Amnesty International, to resolve the dispute.

Munduruku roadblock

Another serious conflict is still underway, though it has not, as yet, resulted in violence. On 28 April, 130 Munduruku Indians and members of the Tapajós riverside communities of Montanha and Mongabal blockaded the Transamazonian highway, occupying a bridge about 25 kilometers (15 miles) east of the new port of Miritituba, a key transhipment point for the soy industry, where international trading giants, such as Bunge and ADM, have large terminals.

With the soy harvest in full swing, the road soon became highly congested, with at least a 40 kilometer (25 mile) backup of large trucks, carrying soybeans to Miritituba. The blockade was lifted during the night from 28 April forward, but was then re-imposed as a 24-hour blockade on the morning of 3 May.

A Mongabay contributor was accidentally caught up in the traffic, and on arriving at the road block he stayed to cover the showdown.

The Munduruku blocked the Transamazonian highway this week in protest of the failure of the Brazilian government to demarcate their traditional lands. The blockade is ongoing. Photo by Mauricio Torres

Antonio Munduruku, a young Indian, told Mongabay two reasons why the blockade was imposed: “We want the FUNAI employees who were working with us to be reinstated. We need them. They are our greatest tool in getting our lands marked out. And we won’t leave with empty hands. The FUNAI president told us on Friday that he’d sorted it out. But we don’t believe in words any more. We want their reinstatement published in the official gazette.”

He went on: “The second reason is to get the Sawré Muybu indigenous territory properly marked out. It’s our land but nothing is happening. Loggers are carrying on extracting timber.”

Vicente Saw, an old cacique, leader, said that stopping traffic on highways was effective: “The heart of the government is here on the road,” he said.

The will to resist

The Munduruku were shocked but not surprised by what happened to the Gamela: “They’re a different ethnic group but they are our brothers, with the same blood,” said Jairo Saw Munduruku. “We mustn’t let what’s happened to them happen to us. The government must mark out our land. If not, big loggers, big mining companies, will come in. And they will start conflicts, attacking us, assassinating leaders. That’s what the government wants but we must stop it happening. We don’t have anyone speaking for us in Congress. We have to defend ourselves.” Attempts by Mongabay to reach the Brazilian government for comment in recent weeks have been met with no response.

The Munduruku feel no hostility toward the truck drivers. An old indigenous leader, Tomas Munduruku, said: “We’re in favor of the truck drivers. They need our support too. It’s not right that the government is cutting their pensions.”

More surprisingly perhaps, many of the truck drivers are supportive of the Indians too. Trucker Mario de Nascimento said: “This road is essential for Brazil and the protest must stop. But the Indians’ rights aren’t being respected, just like ours aren’t being respected. But we are carrying Brazil on our backs. We can’t stop. We need the government to sort it out. None of us deserves the way we’re being treated.”

Another trucker, who didn’t want to give his name, said: “They [the Indians] are right. You can’t deny that. And if some of the people here want to lynch me for saying that, then let them lynch me.”

David and Goliath: One truck driver threatened to drive over the Indians, but other truckers found common ground with the Munduruku in their grievances against the repression and austerity measures of the current government. Photo by Mauricio Torres

Time and again, the truckers, like the Indians, blamed the government for failing to listen, declaring flatly: “The biggest problem is the government.”

The concern is that the Amazonian heat, hunger and thirst will affect both Indians and truck drivers, and that tempers may begin to fray. One truck driver, who also didn’t give his name, threatened: “We’re going to drive our trucks over the Indians, pushing them all over, Indian after Indian. If our dreadful federal government doesn’t manage to get the blockade lifted soon, that’s what we’ll do.”

Another trucker said, in exasperated jest: “It’s getting terrible for all of us. I haven’t had a shower for more than 24 hours, in this heat. I feel like throwing my underpants into the river. They’d kill the fish. So the Indians wouldn’t have fish to eat, nor any of us have fish either.”

With the drivers stretched over many miles, it’s difficult to assess the truckers’ overall mood, but there was a surprising development Wednesday afternoon. A substantial group of truckers and Indians held a meeting beside the highway, during which both sides expressed support for the other’s struggle, saying that their chief complaint is against the current government.

Although not all truckers share this opinion, a significant number do. That is an extraordinary new development because, in the past, Indian actions of this type caused huge resentment among affected parties, particularly truck drivers. It is indicative of the very high level of rejection in Brazil of the ruling government by voters of all kinds, with Pres. Temer’s support now standing at an unprecedented low of 9 percent.

Growing dissent

Protests in Maranhão and Pará are not isolated cases. All over Brazil Indians are expressing grave fears about the future. Paulo Marubo, an Indian from the Javari Valley in the state of Amazonas, not far from the border with Peru, says that FUNAI, decimated by budget cuts, will have to close many of its offices for ethno-environmental protection (Bapes), which play a key role in monitoring the territory occupied by uncontacted tribes.

Marubo told Survival International: “If the protection teams are withdrawn, it will be like before, when many Indians were massacred and died as a result of disease… If the loggers come here, they will want to contact the uncontacted, they will spread diseases and even kill them.”

Instead, the federal government seems to be turning its back on indigenous demands. During his first 55 days in office, justice minister Osmar Serraglio didn’t have a single meeting with an Indian but found time to sit down behind closed doors with a 100 landowners plus businessmen accused of corruption in the Car-Wash scandal.

During the large protest in Brasilia, Serraglio and Eliseu Padilha, Temer’s chief-of-staff, belatedly offered to meet the Indians, but that offer was turned down. The two officials are known to have drawn up the government’s anti-indigenous strategy and, with no offer of compromise on the table, the indigenous leaders saw little point in meeting with them.

The current assault on indigenous rights is the most severe since the end of the military dictatorship in 1985. The NGO ISA (Socioenvironmental Institute) says there has been an “exponential increase in rural violence” since Temer took over. It comments: “The fact that the ministry of justice is occupied by [Osmar Serraglio], an advocate of injustice reinforces the sinister omens of what lies ahead.”

(Leia essa matéria em português no The Intercept Brasil. You can also read this article in Portuguese at The Intercept Brasil)


Brazil Court Suspends Amazon Hydrodam License On Native Demands

Indigenous protesters hold hands near an entrance way to the Rio20 conference in protest over the Belo Monte dam construction. Photo: Getty Images

Indigenous protesters hold hands near an entrance way to the Rio20 conference in protest over the Belo Monte dam construction. Photo: Getty Images

Author: Reuters, Thu, 14 Jan 2016

RIO DE JANEIRO, Jan 14 (Reuters) – A Brazilian court suspended the operating license for the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam, one of the world’s largest, just weeks before owner Norte Energia SA planned to start electricity generation, prosecutors said on Thursday.

Judge Maria Carolina Valente do Carmo of the Federal Court in Altamira, Para, said the license will be suspended until Norte Energia and Brazil’s government meet a previous license requirement to reorganize the regional office of Funai, the national Indian protection agency.

A judge had already ordered the government and Norte Energia to carry out the Funai restructuring work in 2014, so Valente do Carmo also fined the government and the company 900,000 reais ($225,000) for non-compliance.

The Belo Monte dam, one of the most controversial ever constructed in Brazil, is located on the Xingu River near Altamira.

Belo Monte will have an installed capacity of 11,233 megawatts. Its average output, though, will only be about a third of that as the original reservoir was greatly reduced at the request of native groups and environmentalists.

These critics objected to the dam blocking one of the last free-flowing major tributaries of the Amazon. They also opposed an early reservoir plan that would have flooded thousands of square kilometers of virgin rain forest.

Tens of thousands of workers moving to the region to build the massive project also raised fears that many would stay and expand illegal logging, mining and farming in the rainforest.

Brazil is counting on the dam, now several years behind schedule, to help fill a power gap in Brazil’s south caused by delayed projects, rising demand and recent drought.

Norte Energia, which is building and will operate the dam, is a consortium led by Brazil’s state-run utility Centrais Eletricas Brasileiras SA, or Eletrobras; Centrais Eletricas de Minas Gerais, or Cemig; Brazil’s Neoenergia SA and miner Vale SA.

Norte Energia said it had no comment on the ruling because the company has not been formally notified of its contents.

The Funai requirements have been part of the rules governing operations at Belo Monte since the dam project received its preliminary license in 2010, prosecutors said in a statement.

Currently, the Funai offices in Altamira are closed and the agency has seen the number of workers in the region fall by nearly three-quarters. In 2001 there were 60 Funai employees there, today 23. All the Funai stations in indigenous villages near the dam have been closed.

($1 = 4.00 Brazilian reais) (Reporting by Jeb Blount and Marta Nogueira; Editing by Sandra Maler and David Gregorio)


Indigenous Villagers Fight “Evil Spirit” Of Hydropower Dam In Brazil

Juarez Saw is the chief of the Sawré Muybu village on the Tapajós River between the municipalities of Itaituba and Trairao in the state of Pará, Brazil. Credit: Gonzalo H. Gaudenzi/IPS

Juarez Saw is the chief of the Sawré Muybu village on the Tapajós River between the municipalities of Itaituba and Trairao in the state of Pará, Brazil. Credit: Gonzalo H. Gaudenzi/IPS

By Fabiana Frayssinet | Inter Press Service

SAWRÉ MUYBU, Brazil , Dec 21 2015 (IPS) – At dusk on the Tapajós River, one of the main tributaries of the Amazon River in northern Brazil, the Mundurukú indigenous people gather to bathe and wash clothes in these waters rich in fish, the staple of their diet. But the “evil spirit”, as they refer in their language to the Sao Luiz Tapajós dam, threatens to leave most of their territory – and their way of life – under water.

“The river is like our mother. She feeds us with her fish. Just as our mothers fed us with their milk, the river also feeds us,” said Delsiano Saw, the teacher in the village of Sawré Muybu, between the municipalities of Itaituba and Trairao in the northern Brazilian state of Pará.

“It will fill up the river, and the animals and the fish will disappear. The plants that the fish eat, the turtles, will also be gone. Everything will vanish when they flood this area because of the hydroelectric dam,” he told IPS.

The dam will flood 330 sq km of land – including the area around this village of 178 people.

According to the government’s plans, the Sao Luiz Tapajós dam will have a potential of 8,040 MW and will be the main dam in a complex of hydropower plants to be built along the Tapajós River and its tributaries by 2024.

But the 7.7 billion-dollar project has been delayed once again because of challenges to the environmental permitting process.

“The accumulative effect is immeasurable. Environmental experts have demonstrated that it will kill the river. No river can survive a complex of seven dams,” Mauricio Torres, a sociologist at the Federal University of Western Pará (UFOPA), told IPS.

The Tapajós River, which flows into the Amazon River, runs 871 km through one of the best-preserved areas in the subtropical rainforest, where the government whittled away at protected areas in order to build the hydroelectric dams, which are prohibited in wildlife reserves.

The area is home to 12,000 members of the Mundurukú indigenous community and 2,500 riverbank dwellers who are opposed to the “megaproject” – a Portuguese term that the native people have incorporated in their language, to use in their frequent protests.

The Mundurukú have historically been a warlike people, and although they have adopted many Brazilian customs in their way of life, they still wear traditional face paint when they go to the big cities to demonstrate against the dam.

Village chief Juarez Saw complains that they were not consulted, as required by International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 169 concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries, which has been ratified by Brazil.

The process of legalisation of their indigenous territory has been interrupted by the hydropower project.

“We aren’t leaving this land,” he told IPS. “There is a law that says we can’t be moved unless an illness is killing indigenous people.”

The village is located in a spot that is sacred to the Mundurukú people. And they point out that their ancestors were born here and are buried here.

“This is going to hurt, us, not only the Mundurukú people who have lived along the Tapajós River for so many years, but the jungle, the river. It hurts in our hearts,” said the village’s shaman or traditional healer, Fabiano Karo.

The interview is taking place in the ceremonial hut where the shaman heals “ailments of the body and spirit.” He fears being left without his traditional medicines when the water covers the land around the village – and his healing plants.

Academics warn that the flooding will cause significant losses in plant cover, while generating greenhouse gas emissions due to the decomposition of the trees and plants that are killed.

A little girl in Sawré Muybu, an indigenous village on the Tapajós River between the municipalities of Itaituba and Trairao in the northern Brazilian state of Pará. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

A little girl in Sawré Muybu, an indigenous village on the Tapajós River between the municipalities of Itaituba and Trairao in the northern Brazilian state of Pará. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

This biodiversity-rich river basin is home to unique species of plants, birds, fish and mammals, many of which are threatened or endangered.

“The impact will be great, especially on the aquatic fauna, because many Amazon River basin fish migrate from the lower to the upper stretches of the rivers to spawn,” ecologist Ricardo Scuole, at the UFOPA university, explained to IPS.

“Large structures like dikes, dams and artificial barriers generally hinder or entirely block the spawning migration of these species,” he said.

The village of Sawré Muybu currently covers 300 hectares, and the flooding for the hydroelectric dam will reduce it to an island.

María Parawá doesn’t know how old she is, but she does know she has always lived on the river.

“I’m afraid of the flood because I don’t know where I’ll go. I have a lot of sons, daughters and grandchildren to raise and I don’t know how I’ll support them,” Parawá told IPS through an interpreter, because like many women in the village, she does not speak Portuguese.

A few hours from Sawré Muybu is Pimental, a town of around 800 inhabitants on the banks of the Tapajós River, where people depend on agriculture and small-scale fishing for a living.

This region was populated by migrants from the country’s impoverished semiarid Northeast in the late 19th century, at the height of the Amazon rubber boom.

Pimental, many of whose inhabitants were originally from the Northeast, could literally vanish from the map when the reservoir is created.

“With the impact of the dam, our entire history could disappear underwater,” lamented Ailton Nogueira, president of the association of local residents of Pimental.

The consortium that will build the hydroelectric dam, led by the Eletrobrás company, has proposed resettling the local inhabitants 20 km away.

But for people who live along the riverbanks, like the Mundurukú, the river and fishing are their way of life, sociologist Mauricio Torres explained.

“Their traditional knowledge has been built over millennia, passing from generation to generation,” he told IPS. “It is at least 10,000 years old. When a river is dammed and turned into a lake, it is transformed overnight and this traditional knowledge, which was how that region survived, is wiped away.”

The Tapajós River dams are seen by the government as strategic because they will provide energy to west-central Brazil and to the southeast – the richest and most industrialised part of the country.

“The country needs them. Otherwise we are going to have blackouts,” said José de Lima, director de of planning in the municipality of Santarém, Pará.

But the Tapajós Alive Movement (MTV), presided over by Catholic priest Edilberto Sena, questions the need for the dams.

“Why do they need so many hydropower dams on the Tapajós River? That’s the big question, because we don’t need them. It’s the large mining companies that need this energy, it’s the São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro markets that need it,” he told IPS.

It’s evening in Sawré Muybu and the families gather at the “igarapé”, as they call the river. While people bathe, the women wash clothes and household utensils.

From childhood, boys learn to fish, hunt and provide the village with water. For the community, the river is the source of life.

“And no one has the right to change the course of life,” says Karo, the local shaman.

Edited by Verónica Firme/Translated by Stephanie Wildes


New Anti-Terrorism Law Threatens Brazil’s Civil Society

Supreme Federal Court of Brazil. Fabio Pozzebom/ABr - Agência Brasil under a Creative Commons Licence

Supreme Federal Court of Brazil. Fabio Pozzebom/ABr – Agência Brasil under a Creative Commons Licence

By Melanie Hargreaves | Published on Nov 20, 2015

Human rights could be undermined, reports Melanie Hargreaves.

Despite a terrorist attack never hitting the streets of Brazil, some of its conservative leaders are on a quest to place their homeland within the ranks of nations that have anti-terrorism laws on the statute books.

However, while most would assume terrorists to be individuals or groups using violence or intimidation for political ends, it is feared the list of those deemed to be terrorists in Brazil will include civil-society organizations seeking social, political, economic and environmental justice, and individuals attending public protests.

The definition of terrorism in the proposed new legislation remains vague, referring to the ‘provoking of generalized terror or panic’, a subjective concept that has raised suspicions about how widely the law may be applied.

Earlier this month, a group of UN Special Rapporteurs said the new law was too broadly drafted and could restrict fundamental freedoms.

‘We fear that the definition of the crime established by the draft law may result in ambiguities and confusion as to what the State considers a terrorist offence, potentially undermining the exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms,’ the experts said.

‘We regret that the current draft excluded a previous article establishing an important safeguard that would protect participation in political demonstrations and social movements from falling under the legislation’s scope.’

Concern about the manner in which the law could be applied is the result of a crackdown on civil society and freedom of speech that has been increasingly apparent as an economic recession bites.

In the run up to the FIFA World Cup in 2014, thousands of people took to the streets in protest over a bus-fare price rise, forced rehoming and displacement.

In response, the government introduced a Law on Criminal Organizations and the result was to restrict the movements of social activists, leaving space for ambiguous interpretation of rights such as freedom of expression and association. Consequently, the day before the World Cup Final, 23 activists were arrested and jailed.

And at a demonstration in Rio de Janeiro last year, some 200 protesters were arrested, with many later charged under legislation originally intended to target organized crime.

In addition to the proposed anti-terrorism law, the Brazilian government wants to introduce another law that would threaten environmental regulations and the territorial rights of indigenous communities.

Regulations covering development in coastal areas and in currently protected natural areas and historic sites would be relaxed. A review of the legal framework currently protecting indigenous land is also are proposed. The atmosphere of political and economic instability is set against a growing backlash by conservative groups against the country’s first female president, Dilma Rousseff, who was herself jailed in the early 1970s for leftwing activities.

Over the past year, the groups have launched numerous protests and acts of violence while calling for her to step down.

The protests have been tinged with prejudice against poor communities and the government’s social policies, with some even suggesting that people receiving ‘bolsa familia’ (family welfare) shouldn’t have the right to vote. The prejudice against the poor extends to women, black and indigenous people, and the gay community.

Social policies introduced since 2003 have benefited more than 30 million people and have helped to turn Brazil into a global economic player. Yet inequality continues to plague the country, with education, health services and social housing available to some but not all. And many public policies and governmental programmes have helped to create consumers rather than citizens concerned with the ‘res-publica’ (common good).

Civil society is fighting back against conservative pressure. In August, some 75,000 women took to the streets of Brasilia demonstrating in favour of democracy and demanding the protection of social policies and women’s rights. Trade unions and social movements have also demonstrated, urging the government to address the economic crisis.

Nonetheless, the crackdown on civil society in what the Congress sees as a move against ‘enemies of the state’ – individuals, groups, organizations and social movements considered ‘opposition forces’ – raises fears that dictatorship, consigned to the shadows in the mid 1980s, could start to re-emerge.


Athletes Share Cultural Knowledge During First World Indigenous Games In Brazil

New Zealand Maori in a tug of war competition. (Getty.)

New Zealand Maori in a tug of war competition. (Getty.)

The Associated Press | Published, Oct 27, 2015

PALMAS, Brazil — Supersized Maori from New Zealand, diminutive Aeta from the Philippines and native peoples of all shapes and sizes in between tested their mettle at the first World Indigenous Games, a chaotic, kaleidoscopic celebration of first peoples from around the globe.

Organizers billed the nine-day event as a sort of indigenous Olympics.

But for many of the nearly 2,000 participants from some 20 countries who converged last week on host city Palmas, a remote agricultural outpost in Brazil’s scorched heartland, the sports themselves took a back seat to what they said really matters — cross-cultural sharing and learning.

“This restores your faith in humanity,” said Lamarr Oksasikewiyin, a 46-year-old schoolteacher from the Nehiyaw people of Canada’s Saskatchewan province, as he followed round one of the spear-throwing competition. “An elder once told me that our culture will save us. I think this is what he meant.”

Despite the obvious differences between participants — Brazil’s Tapirape wore only body paint and tiny loincloths while the sole Russian delegate was covered in Siberian furs in defiance of the sweltering tropical heat — the commonalities that unite indigenous people from around the globe are palpable, Oksasikewiyin said. From Ethiopia to Ecuador, first peoples worldwide are still reeling from the lingering effects of colonialism and fighting to preserve their cultures and lands, he said.

“We see we’re all in the same boat,” he shouted over the roar of spectators cheering a particularly impressive spear toss. “Being here, all together, it becomes so clear.”

The event, which kicked off Friday, comes one year after Brazil played host to soccer’s World Cup and ahead of next year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The indigenous event’s hypnotic opening ceremony swirled with eye-popping feather headdresses, sumptuous silk robes, buttery suede dresses and revealing loincloths as the 40-odd delegations melted into one chanting, dancing, pulsating mass of humanity.

The far-flung cultural mash-ups multiplied over the following days.

Mongolian archers in velvet mantles traded tips with their feather-crowned brethren, the Xerente people, reputed to be among Brazil’s most-skilled archers. A knot of Tarahumara women from northern Mexico haggled mercilessly over the price of a gourd-and-palm leaf headdress with an equally hard-nosed group of artisan women from the Amazonian state of Para.

An American Indian man from the United States participates in the archery competition. (AP)

An American Indian man from the United States participates in the archery competition. (AP)

The Games are the biggest thing ever to roll into the sleepy town of Palmas during its short 27-year history as the capital of Brazil’s newest state of Tocantins. Non-indigenous locals got in on the action, too, filling the bleachers and swarming the handicraft fair. And everyone snapped endless selfies.

Still, the Games have been hampered by technical glitches and allegations of mismanagement. On opening day, construction workers were still busily working on the installations. The sporting events got off to a late start after a wall in the cafeteria collapsed, slightly injuring several workers and leaving many without breakfast and unable to compete on Saturday.

The debut competitions were pushed back to Sunday, which saw a surprise upset in the blistering tug-of-war event: New Zealand’s fierce Maori warriors lost a battle of the titans against the fridge-sized Bakairi people of central Brazil. The Javae women, also from central Brazil, made short shrift of the Mexican women, in their Crayola-hued circle skirts, and a hefty combined U.S-Philippines team outweighed the forest-dwelling Macuxi people.

Native Brazilians representing around two dozen of the country’s more than 300 tribes make up the lion’s share of participants at the Games — and their problems have taken centre stage at the event. Small but boisterous protests against a proposed constitutional amendment that would give a Brazilian Congress largely dominated by the agricultural lobby the right to demarcate indigenous lands erupted at the opening ceremony, where embattled President Dilma Rousseff was booed. The proposal could come up for an initial vote this week.

“It would be a disaster for us,” said protester Merong Tapurama, of the Pataxo Ha-Ha-Hae people, adding that he saw the Games themselves as a bid to paper over the dire reality of Brazil’s beleaguered indigenous people.

Estimated at between 3 million to 5 million in pre-Columbian times, Brazil’s indigenous population is now under a million people, making up just 0.5 per cent of the country’s 200 million inhabitants. They continue to suffer from racism, poor education and health care, and remain locked in sometimes-bloody battles with loggers, miners, cattle-grazers and soy farmers intent on pushing them off ancestral lands.

“It’s great that the world is getting to see our culture, see how rich it is,” said Timbira Pataxo, who travelled from Bahia state to sell knickknacks at the entrance to the Games. “But the world also needs to know about the real existential threats we face.”

Source: http://www.cp24.com/

Unconquered Kayapó Warriors Fighting For Their Amazon Land


By Deutsche Welle

The Kayapó people of the Amazon are excellent guardians of the forest but big business interests and a change to Brazil’s constitution could threaten the ecosystem they have managed to preserve until now.

In Brazil’s northern interior, the once pristine forest has been stripped in many places leaving behind swathes of barren fields and destroyed ecosystems. A notable exception is an area spanning 11 million hectares of primary tropical forest and savanna. The land is legally-owned by the Kayapó indigenous peoples.

About 10,000 tribal members live in 46 villages scattered across the vast territory roughly the size of Bulgaria. Satellite images of the area confirm what scientists have known all along: The Kayapó are the most effective defenders against illegal logging, ranching and gold mining. However, powerful political and economic forces are working against them, say conservationists.

The Kayapó and other environmental activists are currently fighting a proposed constitutional amendment known as PEC 215, which is intended to transfer the Brazilian executive government’s right to designate which land is indigenous to the country’s parliament – the National Congress.

It sounds harmless enough, except that the congress is home to a powerful “ruralist” bloc that has close ties to the agricultural, forestry, energy and mining industries. As a result, many see the proposed amendment as a threat to what is left of the Amazon rainforest and its biodiversity. And while the Kayapó land is the largest of its kind, it is only one of about 690 recognized territories concentrated in the region that could face the chop.

Photo: Kayapó fishing (Source: International Conservation Fund of Canada)

The Kayapó know how to hunt sustainably

Hunters, gatherers, guardians of the ecosystem

In exchange for their guardianship of the land, the Kayapó count on the forest for food. They fish some of the 3,000 species in the Amazon River, and hunt mammals, birds, and tortoises while women gather nuts and fruit.

Barbara Zimmerman, director of the Kayapó Project at the International Conservation Fund of Canada (ICFC) says their stewardship has little negative impact on endangered species.

“They’re not putting a dent even in the most sensitive game species like white-lipped peccary, tapir, fish and so on,” says Zimmerman who added that such species are being wiped out at an alarming rate in other parts of the Amazon where they are hunted.

Researchers are concerned that giving large resource industries access to the land would threaten several endangered species in the area, including the white-whiskered spider monkey, giant otter, and hyacinth macaw. Other vulnerable large-game species like the giant armadillo, bush dog, and jaguar are found within hunting range of Kayapó communities as well.

“Scientists working in the Amazon would tell you that indigenous lands are absolute key to any hope for conservation of Amazonian biodiversity,” Zimmerman told DW.

The forest also mitigates the effects of climate change and plays an important role in maintaining rainfall patterns on a larger geographic scale. It’s an important buffer for cities in the region, including São Paulo, which suffered power cuts and drastic water rationing in 2014 during its worst drought in 80 years. Scientists attributed the drought to Amazon deforestation .

Powerful economic interests

The hunger for rainforest lands that drives large-scale illegal logging and ranching in the Amazon is linked to Brazil’s booming agricultural sector. According to global auditor PwC, agribusiness employs roughly a third of the working population and accounts for 22 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The country is one of the top three beef exporters in the world. In 2013, 40 percent of global exports for products such as coffee, sugar, soybeans, and orange juice came from Brazil .

Photo: Kayapó on a destroyed patch of forest (Source: International Conservation Fund of Canada)

Slash and burn techniques clear the way for farming but little remains of the forest

Agribusiness has grown so powerful it has an army of lobbyists in government setting agendas like PEC 215. At the helm is Kátia Abreu, the minister of agriculture appointed in December 2014 by President Dilma Rousseff. In an interview with ‘The Guardian’ earlier that year, Abreu described her goal of increasing agricultural output and weakening forest controls.

“We cannot rest on our laurels. There are many things holding back progress – the environmental issue, the Indian issue and more,” said Abreu, referring to the Amazon tribes. “But even with these problems we keep producing high levels of productivity. Imagine how high it might be without those obstacles.”

Abreu also noted the agricultural industry’s role in lifting many average Brazilians out poverty. But Sarah Shenker, campaign officer with Survival International , disagrees with the minister’s take. Shenker says only a small group of people benefit from Brazil’s agricultural industry.

“These projects will make big companies richer, some of the money will go to the government as well, but they’re not projects which are going to make poor people richer,” says the environmental campaigner.

Only the tip of a developmental agenda

A group of indigenous peoples, parliamentarians, and civil society organizations believe PEC 215 is only the tip of a massive developmental agenda that will “permit the approval of large-scale enterprises within these protected areas.” According to a manifesto they signed and delivered to congress in June, these projects include hydroelectric dams, mines, extensive agribusiness and the construction of highways, waterways, ports and railways for industrial transport.

“It is for the whole world that I am fighting to succeed in preserving the forest,” said Kayapó chief Raoni Metuktire in an online appeal against the controversial Belo Monte Dam project on the Xingu river in northeastern Brazil that is expected to be completed by the end of 2015. The local tribes say the dam will damage their livelihoods and the environment. The government argues it will provide clean renewable energy for the region as well as economic development.

Chief Raoni and fellow Kayapó Chief Mekaron-Ti have worked for more than 40 years to save the Amazon and have fought off mega dams proposed along the Xingu River since the 1980s – armed with the tribe’s strong leadership and combative spirit. In the distant past, the Kayapó have gone so far as to evict and kill intruders when threatened.

Corruption hindering environmental protection

In a country where thousands of citizens marched in August in the wake of a massive investigation linking top bureaucrats and company executives to bribery, money laundering and kickbacks, there’s evidence to suggest environmental protection is at the mercy of corruption.

Photo: A group of Kayapó (Source: International Conservation Fund of Canada)

A David and Goliath Story? Kayapó face-off with big business and politics to save their land

For instance, Paulo Roberto Costa , former director of semi-public company Petrobras and one of the first high-level executives to be arrested and convicted, exposed politicians involved in corruption in sectors such as transportation and dam construction.

Another convicted executive, Dalton Avancini, ex-president of one of Brazil’s largest engineering firms Camargo Corrêa, revealed that the company paid millions to two political parties in exchange for 15 percent of the contract to build the Belo Monte mega dam.

Given the money at stake, the indigenous peoples living in the forest are facing an uphill struggle, say conservationists.

“A giant black storm is building on the horizon,” says Zimmerman of the ICFC. “Ranchers want in. Colonists want in. Given that [the Kayapó] have the last valuable stocks of timber in the entire region, the pressures are intense.”