VICTORY: Huge Brazilian Indian Reserve Established in Disputed Amazon Rainforest
President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil has ratified the Raposa Serra do Sol Indian Reserve, with a belated stroke of the pen granting protection to some 6,370 square-miles (16,498 square-kilometers) of Amazonian rainforest in Brazil's northern state of Roraima. After more than thirty years of struggle, the traditional land of 15,000 Macuxi, Patamona, Ingarico, Wapichana and Taurepang people has finally been officially and fully recognized as theirs.
Efforts to establish the Raposa Serra do Sol Indian Reserve have been one of the main struggles of the indigenous movement of Brazil for years. Violence and murder have marred this important justice and sustainability campaign, as ranchers and other economic interests have resisted the policy of recognizing and demarcating indigenous lands.
For over a decade Forests.org has been following and supporting this struggle, networking information on behalf of the campaign and helping to generate protest emails and letters. Grassroots efforts in Brazil coordinated by the Indigenous Council of Roraima (CIR) led the way, but international solidarity by the Rainforest Foundation - US, and to a lesser extent Forests.org and others, has certainly played its part.
Local indigenous communities are rejoicing at their victory. However, the situation remains tense as local politicians and rice growers continue to resist establishment of the reserve, with the local governor declaring a seven-day period of mourning! The threat of violence is very real.
Forests.org, working with Rainforest Foundation - US, will continue to monitor the situation in Roraima, letting the massive Forests.org worldwide network know of any new developments. But for now you are encouraged to celebrate this wonderful victory. Yet again global Internet based information and action networks have played a role in a major local human rights and environmental sustainability campaign victory.
The rainforest conservation movement of which YOU are a part is on a roll!
More information from Rainforest Foundation - US:
Title: Raposa Serra do Sol, Brazil: President Lula da Silva Finally Puts Pen to Paper!
Source: Rainforest Foundation US - press release
Date: April 20, 2005
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
April 20, 2005
Isabela Figueroa, Rainforest Foundation US
Tel: (212) 431 9098
On April 15th, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva finally announced the much anticipated demarcation of Raposa Serra do Sol (RSS) in Roraima state in northern Brazil. His ratification of "Portaria 534" ends a struggle of over thirty years to officially recognize the 4,317,984 acres of traditional land of the 15,000 Macuxi, Ingarikó, Patamona, Wapichana and Taurepang people who call RSS home.
For over 30 years, RSS has been under constant threat from the aggressive expansion of ranching and other economic interests. The lack of government recognition of this area generated serious conflicts, resulting in violations of the rights of Roraima's indigenous peoples, the most recent being the razing of four indigenous villages, the shooting of one resident and the disappearance of another in November 2004.
The process of RSS demarcation
In 1998, then Brazilian Minister of Justice Renan Calheiros signed RSS into law with "Portaria 820." All that remained for full recognition was the President's signature, trough ratification's presidential decree. Meanwhile, several legal challenges were mounted against the "Portaria 820" by local landowners and state politicians, preventing Lula's ratification.
During the course of Lula's administration, the government announced ratification of the area three times, but the government stepped back each time due to pressure from the political class in Roraima. On April 13, a new "Portaria" was issued, demarcating RSS as 4,317,984 continuous acres. After that the Brazilian Supreme Court extinguished all judicial actions against the forming "Portaria", arguing they lost their legal subject. Then, on April 15, Lula signed a Decree ratifying the new "Portaria" and finally ending the process of demarcation.
Lula da Silva's government excluded from the indigenous land the urban area of the Uirmanută village; state and federal roads that cross the area; and stated that "Monte Roraima" National Park must be co-managed by the federal government and the Ingarikó People.
According to the Indigenous Council of Roraima, Conselho Indígena de Roraima (CIR), there are still a few pending issues with the demarcation. However "the most important thing is that RSS was recognized as a continuous area, and not broken into islands," declared Marinaldo Trajano, CIR's General Coordinator.
"The communities are very happy, but the politicians here are really angry. We hope we don't experience a violent scenario." Joenia Wapichana, CIR's lawyer, stated that ""IR will observe the implementation of necessary measures to make the demarcation effective and ensure that the interest of indigenous people inside and outside the demarcated area are protected."
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
In 2004, CIR and RF-US took the struggle to another level by co-filing a petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) regarding demarcation of RSS. On December 6, 2004, the IACHR issued precautionary measures to the Brazilian government asking that it take appropriate steps to protect the life and integrity of community members, and to ensure that they can live and freely move about their land without fear of threat.
"Raposa Serra do Sol's demarcation was, no doubt, a great victory, but Brazil's government has to implement effective measures to avoid violence against the indigenous peoples," explains Isabela Figueroa, RF-US' Program Director for Legal Initiatives. "In the past, Roraima's political class and the rice farmers reacted aggressively, justifying last December's precautionary measures that OAS required Brazil to implement. The governor of Roraima already declared that the state is ?mourning' because of Raposa's demarcation. The Federal government must act in the face of these threats."
A Victory for Amazon Peoples
The demarcation of RSS has been one of the main priorities of the Brazilian indigenous movement for many years. The international community has responded to repeated calls for support by writing letters, signing petitions, and even sending the President pens. While there are still challenges ahead in both the anti-indigenous atmosphere of Roraima and on the national level in Brazil, the ratification of RSS is a tremendous victory.
Since 1999, the Rainforest Foundation US (RF-US) has worked in close partnership with the Indigenous Council of Roraima, Conselho Indígena de Roraima (CIR) -- the most important indigenous organization in the state, representing its 40,000 indigenous people. Over the course of the past five years, RF-US has provided financial, legal, and technical support to the organization, whose main priority has been the demarcation of Raposa Serra do Sol. CIR has coordinated extensive efforts on the ground to have the area recognized, including grassroots organizing, legal work, and lobbying in Brasilia. RF-US has been their main partner in the US for international campaigns and advocacy. In addition, RF-US has supported the ground-breaking work of CIR's legal department, run by Joęnia Carvalho Wapichana, Brazil's first female indigenous lawyer and recipient of the 2004 Reebok Human Rights Award.
The Rainforest Foundation US is dedicated to preserving the rights of indigenous and traditional peoples of the rainforest. It achieves this goal by creating and supporting projects in collaboration with partner organizations and grassroots groups. At the request of these groups, our work in recent years has focused on land tenure issues with an emphasis on legal and policy initiatives.