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Brazil: Indigenous people gather for week-long protest in Brasilia

Thousands of Indigenous people gathered in Brazil’s capital on Monday at the start of the 20th Free Land Camp.

The week-long annual encampment of Indigenous people in Brasilia will focus this year on protesting against President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s unfulfilled promises to create reserves and expel illegal miners and land-grabbers from their territories.

Last week, Lula created two new reserves instead of the six his government had promised for this year.

During the announcement, he acknowledged that “some of our friends” would be frustrated.

Lula said the delay was at the behest of state governors and that it was necessary to find new areas for about 800 non-Indigenous peoples who would eventually be displaced upon defining the new reserves.

“Enough of lawful genocide! Our rights cannot be negotiated, and no one can take Indigenous rights out of the Constitution,” read an open letter from Brazil’s Indigenous People Articulation (Articulação dos Povos Indígenas do Brasil – Apib), the country’s main Indigenous organization, published Monday.

The letter was addressed to the legislative, judicial and executive branches of Brazil’s government.

At least 251 territories have pending claims for recognition before the federal government, according to non-profit Socio-Environmental Institute.

Lula took office in 2023 pledging to resume granting lands to Indigenous peoples, a stark contrast to his predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro, who kept his promise not to create a single centimeter of additional Indigenous land.

Lula created six new reserves in 2023, covering about 620,000 hectares of land, including a vast area of the Amazon rainforest.

However, Indigenous demands face mounting opposition from the powerful agribusiness sector, which has the support of hundreds of seats in Congress and several governors across the country.

Protest organizers said about 8,000 people have so far come to Brasilia this year, many enduring three-day long bus trips to reach the capital.

Activities in the camp include traditional dances, the selling of handicrafts, debates and political demonstrations.

Many more protesters are expected to come throughout the week.


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