Indigenous Rights In Brazil: Gob And Ngo Perspectives

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¶1. (U) SUMMARY. On July 5 poloffs met with
Socio-Environmental Institute (ISA) NGO representatives
Adriana Ramos, Coordinator of the ISA Law and Policy Program,
and her assistant Fernando Baptista. ISA specializes in the
defense of indigenous rights, and the promotion of
sustainable environmental development. Participants
discussed the Indigenous April campaign, the status of
indigenous land ratification in Brazil, and the healthcare
situation of indigenous infants and children in Mato Grosso
do Sul (MS) state. To get the GOB’s take on these and other
issues, poloffs called on Roberto Lustosa, Vice-President of
the Brazilian National Indian Foundation (FUNAI) on July 21.
FUNAI is the Brazilian agency charged with shaping and
implementing the GOB’s indigenous policy. END SUMMARY.


¶2. (U) The Forum on the Defense of Indigenous Rights (FDDI),
in collaboration with NGOs and other institutions throughout
Brazil, sponsored the “Indigenous April” Indian rights
awareness campaign throughout the month of April. The goal
of this month-long series of meetings, workshops, and rallies
was to draw national attention to major issues of concern
affecting indigenous populations, and to hold the GOB
accountable for policies promised but not delivered to
indigenous people. During the month, indigenous leaders,
human rights activists, and NGOs including ISA, released a
“Manifesto Against the Indian Policy of the Government” to
demand that the GOB create a National Council for Indigenous
Policies (CNPI) and immediately demarcate eleven pending
claims (ref A). The manifesto condemned the GOB for granting
moratoriums on land demarcation in heavily farmed areas in
states such as Mato Grosso (MT), where soybean producers
monopolize vast land holdings.

¶3. (U) According to Adriana Ramos and Fernando Baptista at
ISA, approximately 700 Indian leaders participated in
Indigenous April events in Brasilia. Event organizers met
with GOB representatives including FUNAI President Mercio
Gomes, Justice Minister Thomaz Bastos, and President Lula’s
former Chief of Staff Jose Dirceu to discuss &April
Manifesto8 demands. Ramos and Baptista complained to
poloffs that the demands presented have been ignored by the
GOB. (Note: Some of the proposals outlined in the manifesto
have, in fact, been addressed by the GOB. For instance, the
Raposa Serra do Sol indigenous reservation was ratified as a
continuous indigenous territory by President Lula on April
¶15. Additionally, the creation of a National Council on
Indigenous Policy (CNPI) is underway. End Note.)

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Demarcation and Ratification of Indigenous Territories
——————————————— ———

¶4. (U) Demarcation, or the process to turn land into an
indigenous reserve, requires that anthropologists and
surveyors verify that indigenous people have historically
occupied an area. The process is laboriously slow and it
usually takes years, if not decades, to settle a claim. At
ISA, Ramos and Baptista told poloffs that many indigenous
lands are floating in legal limbo between the demarcation and
ratification stages. Due to insufficient funding, much of
the anthropological research required to ratify reservations
remains uncompleted, they said. Ramos and Baptista also told
poloffs that the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) has played an
antagonistic role in the demarcation process. According to
Ramos and Baptista, the MOJ has purposely delayed decrees
recognizing indigenous lands due to pressure from local

¶5. (U) FUNAI Vice-President Lustosa dismissed this claim as
naive, and explained to poloffs that the ratification process
is not as simple as some imagine. Instead, it is complicated
by the intervention of interested parties such as ranchers,
land owners, and agribusinesses -* some of whom have bona
fide claims to the land they occupy, he explained. Because
of the legal complexities involved, the GOB has adopted a
cautious approach to ratifying indigenous territories. The
GOB considers all legal ramifications before making a
decision to avoid reversing decisions later due to court
injunctions, Lustosa said. Despite the GOB’s cautious
policy, Lustosa maintained that the GOB has not fallen behind
on land demarcations and ratifications, citing 54 indigenous
territories that have been officially recognized during
Lula’s Presidency.


¶6. (U) Raposa Serra do Sol, an indigenous reserve in Roraima
state in northern Brazil, is comprised of 1,743 million
hectares and around 16,000 indigenous people living in 164
different indigenous villages. On April 15, President Lula
ratified Raposa Serra do Sol as an indigenous territory and
ended one of the most turbulent demarcation processes in
Brazilian history. For over 30 years, a number of indigenous
groups have struggled with local politicians and ranchers for
rights to the land. The demarcation process has been delayed
significantly due to court proceedings, widespread violence,
and political campaigning from those opposed to the
demarcation process. The Roraima state government and the
Brazilian Armed Forces created the Uiramuta municipality, the
Monte Roraima National Park, and an Army platoon within the
area. State representatives allegedly promoted the creation
of this municipality to slow the Raposa Serra do Sol
demarcation process.

¶7. (U) Ramos and Baptista skeptically downplayed the
presidential decree that ratified the area as a publicity
stunt designed to sideline the GOB’s indigenous policy
detractors. Although the reservation was ratified as one
continuous area, the two believed that not including the
Uiramuta municipality was a grave error. Ramos and Baptista
fear that this settlement will serve as a rallying base for
all of those that actively seek to block the ratification of
Raposa Serra do Sol.

¶8. (U) FUNAI Vice-President Lustosa maintained that Uiramuta
presents no threat to the ratification process of Raposa
Serra do Sol. Lustosa conversely contended that the small
area of Uiramuta, lightly populated mainly by indigenous
people, will serve as a convenient industrial outpost for the
region. He also projected that, as in similar territories,
Uiramuta will be absorbed by neighboring indigenous
populations. When asked when the ratification process for
Raposa Serra do Sol would be completed, Lustosa could not
guarantee that it would be finished by the end of President
Lula’s mandate.


¶9. (U) When questioned about the ongoing problem of
malnutrition in Mato Grosso do Sul (MS) state (ref B),
principally amongst infants in the Dourados municipality,
FUNAI Vice-President Lustosa revealed that the GOB has
adopted a new plan to combat hunger in MS by creating four
additional indigenous territories surrounding Dourados.
Dourados is home to the Guarani-Kaiowa Indians and has the
most publicized incidence of indigenous infant mortality in
Brazil. The GOB hopes that this new plan will provide local
indigenous populations access to more arable land. In the
meantime, FUNAI has partnered with the National Health
Foundation (FUNASA), the Civil Defense, and the National
Supply Company (CONAB) to provide food aid to 2,500 native
Brazilians suffering from malnutrition in MS.

¶10. (U) Dourados is not the only municipality in Brazil that
has serious problems with indigenous infant mortality. A
2005 study conducted by FUNASA cited other areas where
mortality indices are actually worse. In indigenous
communities in the states of Acre, Mato Grosso, and Para,
indices of infant mortality per 1,000 has reached 115.4,
133.8, and 101.85 respectively. The study cites a lack of
land access as the leading contributor of infant death,
followed by poor sanitation. Despite the alarming
statistics, the Director of FUNASA’s Indigenous Health
Department, Alexandre Padilha, believes that the national
indices of indigenous infant mortality have been steadily
declining in the last few years. The ratio has fallen from
74.6 in 2000 to 47.4 in 2004.


¶11. (U) FUNAI Vice-President Lustosa openly described the
various GOB initiatives underway to improve indigenous policy
management and delivery. As part of its push to
&restructure,8 FUNAI is promoting the creation of a
National Council of Indigenous Policy (CNPI) which would
serve as an independent GOB agency to oversee and coordinate
the myriad of indigenous governmental programs. If
implemented, CNPI could transform indigenous policy making
into a more inclusive process by uniting indigenous leaders
and civil society organizations under the leadership umbrella
of FUNAI. Creation of the CNPI is well underway with
regional forums that are being held across Brazil to nominate
representatives for a national conference to be hosted in
Brasilia in April 2006. It is expected that some 800 Indian
leaders will gather at this event to deliberate on the
formation of the CNPI.


¶12. (U) FUNAI has a troubled history that predates its 1967
inception. FUNAI was created in 1967 to replace the Indian
Protection Service (SPI) which was dissolved due to
institutional corruption. Throughout the years FUNAI has
been loudly criticized, and has subsequently had many of its
duties expropriated. For example, in 1999 FUNAI relinquished
its responsibilities for indigenous health to the National
Health Foundation (FUNASA), in the Brazilian Ministry of
Health. To provide better educational resources to Indian
communities, responsibilities were likewise transferred from
FUNAI to the Brazilian Ministry of Education (MOE).

¶13. (U) When asked about FUNAI’s troubles, FUNAI
Vice-President Lustosa spoke candidly and listed FUNAI’s
three main problems. Lustosa cited budgetary constraints as
the number one concern. FUNAI’s policy latitude is severely
constrained by its meager annual budget of R$107 million
(Note: One can observe firsthand FUNAI’s budgetary malaise
reflected in the poor upkeep of its headquarters. Poloffs
played &guess the floor8 on the elevator ride up to the
executive suite because half of the buttons were not marked.
Although cosmetically peppered with works of art, the drab
walls of FUNAI also spoke of years of institutional neglect.
End Note.). To make matters worse, a number of FUNAI
employees went on strike recently to demand better employment
benefits. FUNAI employees are now advocating the
implementation of the FUNAI Careers and Appointments Plan
(PCCS), which seeks foremost to provide FUNAI professionals
with an organized career track. Lustosa cited FUNAI’s
sometimes nebulous role in the indigenous policy making
network as the third problem area. To combat this ambiguity,
FUNAI is being restructured to consolidate its lead
authoritative position vis-a-vis indigenous policy. The
creation of the National Council of Indigenous Policy (CNPI)
will not dilute its power, but enhance its overarching
governability, contends Lustosa.