US embassy cable - 05BRASILIA1325

BRAZILIAN INDIANS DEMAND RIGHTS, FAULT GOB FOR POOR INDIGENOUS POLICIES

Identifier: 05BRASILIA1325
Wikileaks: View 05BRASILIA1325 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Brasilia
Created: 2005-05-18 19:19:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Tags: PGOV PHUM PNAT SOCI BR Human Rights TIP
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BRASILIA 001325 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, PNAT, SOCI, BR, Human Rights, TIP 
SUBJECT: BRAZILIAN INDIANS DEMAND RIGHTS, FAULT GOB FOR 
POOR INDIGENOUS POLICIES 
 
REF: A. BRASILIA 941 
 
     B. BRASILIA 985 
     C. BRASILIA 1000 
 
1. (U) Summary.  In his September 2002 "Commitment to the 
Indigenous Peoples of Brazil," then-candidate Lula da Silva 
recognized past GOB policy errors on indigenous issues and 
pledged to create "a coherent indigenous policy" to address 
land and other human rights issues.  During Lula's first two 
and a half years in office, however, there have been no 
indications that his administration has created a coherent 
nationwide policy to address indigenous needs.  A number of 
eligible areas await demarcation to become indigenous 
territory but problems within the GOB's National Indian 
Foundation (FUNAI) have made it difficult to process claims 
quickly.  The "Indigenous April" campaign and a recently 
published Amnesty International (AI) report criticized the 
GOB's lack of a clear indigenous policy and its failure to 
demarcate land.  End Summary. 
 
The Demarcation Process and Indigenous Rights to Land 
--------------------------------------------- -------- 
2. (U) Approximately 400,000 indigenous people from 215 
different "nations" live in Brazil.  Although the Brazilian 
indigenous population makes up .03% of the population, they 
are constitutionally entitled to 11% of the land.  The 1988 
Constitution guarantees indigenous people the right to live 
on or own land they traditionally occupied before the 
formation of the Brazilian state or government. 
 
3. (U) The process to turn land into an indigenous reserve, 
or demarcation, requires that anthropologists and surveyors 
verify that indigenous people have historically occupied an 
area.  The demarcation process is laboriously slow and it 
usually takes years, if not decades, to settle a claim.  In 
public documents, the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI), 
which is responsible for coordinating GOB indigenous policy, 
admits that there are problems within the bureaucratic 
process but claims that underfunding, understaffing, 
corruption, and internal conflicts make it difficult to 
quickly process claims. 
 
4. (U) The GOB has declared that 580 that indigenous 
territories are eligible for demarcation under the 1988 
Constitution.  Of these, 340 are awaiting "ratification" 
while an additional 139 territories need "verification," two 
different steps in the long process.  Justice Minister Marcio 
Thomaz Bastos pledged to complete the demarcation process for 
the remaining 139 territories before the end of 2006.  Given 
the lengthy demarcation process and the GOB's past history on 
demarcation, representatives from the Forum in Defense of 
Indigenous Rights (FDDI), a group consisting of seven 
different indigenous and pro-indigenous rights organizations, 
doubt that GOB will meet this goal.  (Note:  On April 18, 
President Lula signed a decree to create Raposa Serra Do Sol, 
an Amazonian Indian reserve, in northern Brazil.  Post will 
report septel.  End Note) 
 
"Indigenous April" 
------------------ 
5. (U) The FDDI launched "Indigenous April," a month long 
nationwide indigenous rights campaign to criticize the GOB's 
lack of a clear indigenous policy and its failure to quickly 
demarcate land.  In a number of public forums and press 
releases, indigenous leaders announced that "President Lula 
was one of the worst Presidents to guarantee indigenous 
rights since the end of the military regime in 1985," and 
faulted Lula's administration for demarcating the least 
amount of indigenous land since the end of military rule in 
1985.  They further demanded an immediate end to violence and 
access to food, health care, and other social services on 
reservations. 
 
6. (U) During the month, indigenous leaders released a 
"Manifesto Against the Indian Policy of the Government" to 
demand that the GOB create a National Council for Indigenous 
Policies and immediately demarcate eleven pending claims. 
The Manifesto further declared that the GOB is an 
"anti-indigenous government" that "offers privileges to 
colonial and non-indigenous cultures" during demarcation and 
other judicial proceedings. 
 
7. (U) On April 19, in celebration of Indigenous Peoples Day, 
Lula asked for "patience" from indigenous people while FUNAI 
worked to improve living conditions and demarcate land.  Lula 
declared that his "moral promise" to the indigenous 
population not only included land demarcation, but the 
creation of social programs on indigenous reservations and 
communities as well.  Justice Minister Bastos relayed Lula's 
comments but went a step further by asking for forgiveness 
from the indigenous community for the treatment they have 
received from the GOB throughout history.  Indigenous April 
ended with a week long sit-in on the main Esplanade in 
Brasilia, Federal District from April 24 to May 3. 
 
AI Report on Indigenous Living Conditions 
----------------------------------------- 
8. (U) Amnesty International (AI) recently published a report 
entitled "Foreigners in our Own Country: Indigenous Peoples 
in Brazil" that criticized the GOB's lack of a clear 
indigenous policy and assessed living conditions among 
Brazil's indigenous population.  In the report, AI stated 
that indigenous people continue to be victims of attacks, 
killings, and other forms of discrimination and the GOB has 
failed to meet its international and constitutional 
obligations.  The report supported indigenous claims that 
GOB's failure to demarcate indigenous territories and the 
slow demarcation process contributed to violence, racial 
discrimination, and other human rights abuses.  In 
territories where federal protection was needed, the GOB has 
failed to take action despite warnings from the OAS and other 
international organizations, AI reported. 
 
9. (U) According to AI, living conditions on reservations and 
other indigenous communities are plagued with malnutrition, 
poor health care, violence, alcoholism, and suicide.  Infant 
mortality rates have increased sharply this year.  AI and the 
indigenous community blamed the GOB for the malnutrition 
deaths of 21 Guarani-Kaiowa indigenous children living on 
reservations since January.  (Note: Sao Paulo will provide 
more information septel.  End note.)  The Brazilian National 
Health Foundation (FUNASA) accredited the high infant 
mortality rate to structural social and economic problems 
within the Guarani-Kaiowa community and their inability to 
access indigenous lands.  FUNAI blamed the deaths on an 
increase in the number of births on the Guarani-Kaiowa 
reservation. 
 
10. (U) In response to AI's report, the GOB admitted that it 
had been negligent in protecting indigenous rights but had 
made progress on its indigenous policies.  The GOB noted that 
Lula has recognized 43 indigenous territories and reserved 
12% of Brazil's territory for indigenous reserves since he 
took power in 2003.  Indigenous Missionary Council 
Vice-President Saulo Freitosa refuted this claim and 
presented documents to the media to show that since 2003, the 
GOB has only recognized 13 Indian ancestral lands, not 43. 
(Note: The Indigenous Missionary Council is an Indigenous 
Rights NGO sponsored by the Catholic Church.  End note.) 
 
Comment 
------- 
11. (SBU) Indigenous April demonstrated the high degree of 
frustration in the indigenous community with sub-standard 
living conditions on reservations, and with the GOB's 
lumbering pace in the demarcation of land.  AI's report 
offered further proof that Brazil's indigenous population 
deserves more attention from the GOB.  Without more political 
and economic clout, however, it remains to be seen whether 
Brazil's indigenous population will ever receive the land and 
other entitlements they are guaranteed under the 1988 
Constitution. 
 
DANILOVICH 

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