BRASILIA, Brazil, May 14, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — Today, for several reasons, the indigenous question occupies a prominent place on the agenda of the Brazilian government, the Congress, the Justice and the lives of farmers in the country. The National Confederation of Agriculture and Livestock of Brazil (CNA) reports that, for the first time, the President of Brazil is taking charge and assuming the task of managing the different interests involved. And it does so in an unprecedented way, calling various organs of the government to broadly analyze the land problems, in all its aspects.
Last week, the President’s Chief of Staff, Gleisi Hoffmann, spent six uninterrupted hours on the Agriculture Committee of the House of Representatives. In discussion with lawmakers, she heard documented complaints on the issue of anthropological reports with fraudulent information justifying the creation and expansion of indigenous areas. The reports were issued by the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI) – the agency responsible for Indigenous policy and for assistance to Indigenous people inBrazil.
When FUNAI determines, through an anthropological report, that an area is indigenous, it becomes Federal land, therefore, annulling all documentation of land ownership. Conflict is created because the farmer, on this land with legal authorization by the Brazilian state, having spent decades working the land and paying taxes on it, is immediately evicted without rights to indemnity. The government pays the farmer only the minimum for improvements which have been made on the property (buildings and infrastructure), always in small amounts that prevent him from restarting his life and resuming production elsewhere.
Brazilian Agriculture And Indigenous Communities
Allegations reinforced the decision of Palacio do Planalto (the Federal Government in Brazil) to expand board decisions on the boundaries within government. So far, the problems related to indigenous communities have been treated in the Executive Branch, exclusively by FUNAI. This Foundation has always focused its activities on expanding and creating new indigenous reserves, indiscriminately and to the detriment of their other duties of assistance to these people.
For decades, the boundaries were being made in sparsely populated areas, especially in the Amazon. In recent years, however, FUNAI has been demarcating indigenous lands and expanding outside the Amazon Rain Forest, often in areas which have been occupied by non-Indian Brazilians for decades and, in some cases, for centuries. This is precisely what has caused the recent agrarian disputes, because these are areas with strong agricultural vocation.
One of the most controversial actions of the FUNAI occurs in Mato Grosso do Sul, state of the Brazilian Midwest, one of the largest agricultural producers in the country. In this state, farmers who have occupied the region, encouraged and legalized by the government itself, are threatened with the loss of their land, creating legal uncertainty and disregard for property rights. In neighboring Mato Grosso State, it was absurd to destroy the entire infrastructure of a town of 4,500 inhabitants, with public schools for 600 children, producing a devastating scenario similar to that of a civil war.
CNA requires only that the Constitution is enforced. The Supreme Court already decided, in a recent decision declaring the continuous demarcation of the Raposa Serra do Sol (judgment of 3388/2009/RR PET) constitutional, that demarcated indigenous lands can not be expanded.
After carefully going over article 231 of the Social Order of the Federal Constitution in 1988, the leadership of the CNA came across the following text: “the Indigenous people are recognized …. the original rights to lands they traditionally occupy (in 1988), making the Federal government in charge of demarcating, protecting and enforcing all of its assets.”
The intention of the constituent when using the verb “occupy” in this was to create what many have called “indigenous fact”, setting the date of the enactment of the Constitution as a framework for the identification of areas traditionally occupied by indigenous people. But FUNAI ignored this article and the new demarcations continued. Today, the indigenous territory totals 110.9 million hectares, with a population, according to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics, 517,383 Indians living in villages. This area corresponds to 12% of the territory of the country.
It is important to remember that the entire Brazilian agriculture, one of the largest in the world, occupies only 27.7% of the territory and generates, in this space, 40% of the country’s total exports, 25% of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and a third of the jobs for Brazilians.
Definitely, Brazil, in order to continue producing food for Brazilians and for the world, must not give up this area.
From 1988 to now, indigenous communities have gained more than 96.6 million acres, but remain unattended in their social demands, such as health. This was revealed in a survey commissioned by the CNA Datafolha Institute – Institute for Opinion Research linked to the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo, one of Brazil’s biggest media outlets- at the end of last year. CNA decided to find out what the Indigenous people think and want for themselves, because in Brazil, the indigenous issue landed in the political realm and produced a meaningless polarization.
Datafolha did 1,222 interviews in 32 villages with more than a hundred inhabitants of the country. They asked about the main problem faced by them in their personal lives; 30% responded that the biggest difficulty is the access to healthcare. Unemployment and the lack of basic sanitation tied for second place with 16% of those questioned. The territorial issue in this case is practically disappears. It is only mentioned by 24% of respondents when asked about the main problems in Brazil, and it is not something they are concerned with in their daily lives.
CNA supports the government’s initiative to discuss and decide on indigenous issues from the working group that brings together diverse trained technicians. Together they are able to consider the matter, taking into account the economic and social reality of the country. It is a mistake to think that the agrarian question boils down to a conflict between the indigenous population and agribusiness. Other things being discussed are the construction of dams, roads and ports, as well as the exploitation of minerals and the very presence of the Armed Forces throughout the national territory.
The working group created has representatives from FUNAI, as well as the Ministries of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply, Agricultural Development, Cities, Justice and the President’s Chief of Staff, and the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa). This group brings together knowledge and expertise to evaluate the various aspects involved in the expansion and creation of new indigenous reserves, making the process fairer for all Brazilians involved, whether Indigeneous or non-Indigeneous people.
This conflict between white Brazilians and Brazilian Indigenous people, artificially created by FUNAI, is unnecessary because the government has ownership of 40% of the territory, which could be allocated to any Brazilian, including Indigenous people. There is, therefore, no need to endanger the areas of food production in the country, which occupies only 27.7% of the territory.
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SOURCE National Confederation of Agriculture and Livestock of Brazil