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AFP / Jody Amiet - View of part of the Amazon Rainforest in French Guiana.
“We are alive but we are slowly dying”: two Amazonian Guarani-Kaiowá representatives came to Paris to set off the alarm against deforestation and to denounce the dispossession of their land, both of which threaten their future in southwest Brazil.
On Wednesday, during a press conference, Valdelice Veron – daughter of a chief murdered by a farmer in 2003 – explained: “We are here to ask for help, not only for the forest and Nature, but also for our life”. Like her father, nearly 300 members of this 45,000 souls community were “slaughtered during the last ten years” in conflicts linked with soy and sugarcane cultures’ expansion, she says. “In Mato Grosso do Sul, the soy and ethanol you consume has been mixed with Guarani-Kaiowá blood”, she warns. The Guarani-Kaiowá, settled upon around 100,000 acres, represent the second largest autochthonous people in Brazil. Valdelice herself has received death threats in her country. She travelled abroad for the first time with Chief Natanael Vilharva-Cáceres.
Both of them took part in the “Summit of Conscience” on Tuesday, organized by France as a step toward the negotiations for a universal agreement to curb climate change. “We are slowly dying”, Vilharva-Cáceres explained, speaking in Portuguese, his head wrapped in a feather crown.
In the dock are extensive transgenic soy cultures, encouraged by massive Chinese demand, and big multinational sugarcane-derived agro-fuel firms, “whose activity aggravates land conflicts”, NGO Planète Amazone (Amazon planet) underscores. Global ethanol production was multiplied by six from 2000 to 2010, rising from 19 to 100 million m3, the organization recalls.
– Visits to the Elysée and the French Assembly –
“Murders, land grabbing, malnutrition, health problems, industrial accidents and unpaid wages make the Guarani-Kaiowá’s daily lives”, the NGO adds. Does the Brazilian Constitution not guarantee rights for autochthonous peoples? “It is paper, but at least it is written”, Chief Vilharva-Cáceres notes, before going on to denounce several amendment projects that would threaten their integrity. “In Brazil, there is a lot of discrimination. Members of our community often cannot enter a restaurant or have a stroll in the streets”, he denounces. For each land demarcation process in favor of the Indians, the Brazilian president has to give definitive approval. “President Dilma Roussef is party to these crimes, because on her table are 22 homologation decrees that have been awaiting a signature for years”, Valdelice Veron states. In Paris, both representatives were received in the Elysée presidential palace by Nicolas Hulot, François Hollande’s special envoy for the protection of the planet. They have also been to the national Assembly to defend their cause.
At the end of June, Brazil’s Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI), linked with the Catholic Church, denounced a resurgence of violence against indigenous peoples in this country in 2014, with 138 murdered Indians (+42% compared with 2013) and 135 inventoried suicides. Some 890,000 Indians, coming from 305 different ethnic groups, live in Brazil, for 202 million inhabitants. Their land represents 12% of national territory, and most of it is in the Amazon Rainforest. However, many of these territories still have not been demarcated and are being occupied by white settlers.
© AFP - translated by Mahault Thillaye / original article
Date : 22/07/2015