Open-door policy

Published: Sunday 31 March 1996

Open-door policy

The new Decree 1,775/96 signed by President Fernando Cardoso on January 8, allows Brazilian states, municipalities and other parties to contest and oppose the delimitation of indigenous lands (Down To Earth, Vol 4, No 19). Says Beto Borges, Amazon Campaign Coordinator of the Rainforest Action Network (RAN), "Brazil has taken a giant step backward with respect to the indigenous people's rights. It is the wild west all over again, only this time it is the rainforests of Brazil."

Scarcely had the ink dried on the Decree that the reclaiming of indigenous territory started in earnest. The Sattin Agroindustrial Estate in the state of Mato Grosso do Sui filed a lawsuit to assert its rights over the Guarani-Kaiowa indigenous area. Soon after, the government of Bahia state also filed a suit seeking to appropriate the Coroa Vermelha indigenous reserve of the Pataxo people. Local a~tivists fear that it is only a matter of time before a fresh assault is made on Yanomami territory by gold miners and others harbouring commercial interests. The Yanomami had an assembly late last month to organise resistance against the take over of their lands. Other groups have also held similar meetings to discuss the threat to their lands and lifestyles.

In the first debate on the Decree held on February 5, the Brazilian minister of justice, Nelson Jobim, revealed that he will not discuss the matter with anyone who is against the possibilty of contestiQg the demarcation of indigenous areas. Meanwhile, a number of environmental and human rights groups including RAN, Commission Pro-Yanomami, Council for the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples and Organisations of Brazil .and the Indianist Missionary Council have asked human rights organisations and concerned people everywhere to put pressure on the Brazilian government to withdraw the genocidal Decree. Protest letters addressed to President Cardoso are already pouring in.

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