CAPOIB - Council for the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples and Organizations of Brazil and the Forum in Defense of Indigenous Rights publicly denounce the arbitrary decisions of President Fernando Henrique and of his right-hand man, the Minister for Justice, Nelson Jobim.
Since March 1995, the Fernando Henrique administration, representing anti-indigenous groups, has been announcing its intention to change Decree 22 of the 4th of February 1991, which regulates the demarcation of indigenous lands. Purporting to defend the principles of democracy, the government sanctioned the new Decree n. 1.775 of the 8th of January 1996 providing for the principle of the adversary system and for the right to an ample defence, retreating from the obligation to protect the indigenous heritage and allowing interest parties to invalidate the demarcation of all indigenous areas that have not been officially registered yet.
In this way, the government has thrown away millions of dollars invested in the demarcation of indigenous lands, which came from agreements signed abroad.
The new Decree allows Brazilian states and municipalities and other parties with vested interests in indigenous lands to challenge and oppose the limits defined by the official government agency. By allowing this possibility and not having any lawsuit or accusation within the administrative proceedings to be resolved, the federal administration resorted to a false judicial justification to base its ideological proposal to jeopardize the constitutional principle outlined in Article 231, according to which ethnical and cultural diversity is to be respected.
This new administrative procedure provides grounds to and officializes old and illegitimate pretensions of reducing the limits of indigenous lands to be demarcated. Thus, the physical space necessary for the survival and growth of ethnical and cultural diversity is undermined.
We are very worried about this, because the publication of this ill-conceived Decree is already having tragic consequences on virtually all indigenous lands and their populations, except those officially registered. We are frightened also by some interpretations of the Decree that raise doubts about lands already registered.
After the publication of the Decree, the Sattin S/A Agroindustrial company of the state of Mato Grosso do Sul filed a lawsuit to claim the Gurani-Kaiowa area, where many cases of violence, ranging from assassinations to suicides, have been registered because of the insufficient land space available to its population. On the 10th of January, the government of the state of Bahia also filed a suit to expropriat the Coroa Vermelha indigenous area, of the Pataxo people, located in the extreme south of the state.
During all of last year, we warned that the new Decree would provoke the invasion of indigenous lands. This is already occurring in the Barao de Antonina (Kaingang people) indigenous land, located in the state of Parana.
These are only the first signs of what can happen to indigenous peoples in the future under the present regime.
Therefore, we demand the immediate invalidation of Decree 1.775/96 and make President Fernando Henrique and the Minister for Justice, Nelson Jobim, responsible for every piece of land robbed from indigenous peoples, for every drop of indigenous blood that falls to the ground at the hands of assassin gunmen hired by landowners, timber companies, distilleries, businessmen, mining companies, municipalities, states and other political and economic interests.
Brasilia-DF, 17th of January, 1996
CAPOIB - Council for the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples and Organizations of Brazil
Forum in Defence of Indigenous Rights