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LATIN AMERICA | 26-04-2023 12:11

Indigenous Brazilians demand more land reserves

Thousands of indigenous Brazilians gathered in the capital this week to demand the creation of new reserves on their ancestral lands.

Thousands of indigenous Brazilians are gathered in the capital this week to demand the creation of new reserves on their ancestral lands.

They came from all around the country to Brasilia for their 19th annual gathering under the slogan "Terra Livre" (free land) – the first since the return to power in January of leftist leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Lula had expressed support for expanding indigenous reserves, unlike his far-right predecessor Jair Bolsonaro, who had vowed to not yield "one more centimetre."

"We travelled a week to get here. What we want is equal rights for all indigenous peoples throughout Brazil," Joyce Paumari Hiraka, 24, told AFP-TV – her face, like many others there, decorated with tribal motifs.

Many among the assembled sported majestic feather head-dresses and body paint, presented a stark contrast to the futuristic architecture of the capital city hosting the week-long gathering that started Monday.

"The demarcation of our lands is very important for us, to prevent intrusions by those who come to destroy the forest," said 33-year-old Andre Guajajara, who came from the northeastern state of Maranhão. 

Indigenous reserves are considered by experts as a bulwark against Amazon deforestation caused mainly by mining and agricultural expansion.

"Our territory is an island of forest with destruction all around," said Yakari Kuikuro Mehinaku, who lives on a reserve in the Alto Xingu region of Brazil's central Mato Grosso state.

"The government needs to take care of the environment as we the indigenous people do," he added.

Lula, who had previously governed from 2003 to 2010, created a  Indigenous Peoples Ministry on his return to office for a third term.

The minister in charge, Sonia Guajajara, recently announced 14 new reserves will be registered, covering a total area of 1.5 million hectares.

 

– TIMES/AFP

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