Amazon indigenous representatives call for support

The speakers at the conference. Centre: Sonia Guajajara. Photo credit: Isabella Massam

 ROME – A delegation of indigenous people of the Amazon spoke at a press conference Monday to denounce the violence and oppression they are currently facing and to encourage Europe to take action.

 The Greenpeace press conference shone a glaring light on the crisis situation of the Amazon and its indigenous peoples. 

 The delegation of seven is travelling around Europe, beginning with Rome and the Vatican and ending in Spain.

 The “Indigenous Blood: Not a Single Drop More” campaign will cover 12 European countries in 35 days and is led by the Articulation of the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB) group in partnership with other civil society organisations.

 They tell a hard-hitting story of violence and exploitation enabled by destructive politics and thoughtless consumption.

 A primary target of their denunciation is Jair Bolsonaro, president of Brazil, whose election campaign focussed on agribusiness and refusing to respect indigenous rights. 

 Since coming into office, he has pursued extremely destructive policies towards the environment and the indigenous peoples of the Amazon. 

 Not even the international reaction to the outbreak of massive wildfires in the Amazon changed his course: as recounted by Angela Kaxuyana, one of the representatives, he blamed non-governmental organisations and even the indigenous themselves for the fires, which helped to clear land for agribusiness and to intimidate the indigenous people of the Amazon.

 The delegation also aims to represent those indigenous peoples who have chosen to remain uncontacted: it was underlined that they too were affected badly by the fires.

 Violence against indigenous people has also worsened since Bolsonaro came into office.  Several of the representatives described the situation as a genocide.  Martina Borghi, who introduced the conference, emphasised that the representatives needed authorisation and protection to travel to Europe, as their lives are at risk in Brazil.  

 Bolsonaro’s refusal to demarcate territory for the indigenous people has also caused an increase in tension and violence.

 Yet not everything that the indigenous people face can be blamed on Bolsonaro, as the agribusiness and mining for which the Amazon is being destroyed is fuelled by European consumption.  One product mentioned repeatedly was soya, which is used to feed animals in Europe.

 Such farming causes deforestation and other types of environmental destruction: Elizeu Guarani Kaiowa, representing a large assembly of Guarani people, said that the pesticides and chemicals used for farming are creating a “rain of poison.”

 The everyday consumption of goods from the Amazon, by ordinary people in Europe as well as by larger industries, is encouraging the destruction of the environment and violence against indigenous people. 

 And apart from short-term financial gains, this is in no one’s interests: as the first speaker, Sonia Guajajara, underlined, what is currently happening in Brazil is damaging for the wider world.  The destruction of biodiversity, feeding climate change, is dangerous for all.

 Kreta Kaingang, another representative, described it as a “global war” involving all nations. 

 Thus, the campaign aims to raise awareness of the effects of consumption, and to encourage the European Council to pressure Bolsonaro and Brazil into respecting the laws and agreements they are currently ignoring, such as the Paris Agreement or the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

 Angela Kaxuyana stressed the importance of talking with the responsible companies, European society and governments.  She said that the responsibility of nations is linked to that of consumers.

 They hope to make Europe aware of “the urgency, the emergency,” said Kaxuyana.

 Guarani Kaiowa noted that this was not the first time that denouncing the “third phase of colonisation” has been tried.  Indeed, he said that previous leaders who tried have been killed. 

 Yet as it is still being left to the indigenous to defend the Amazon, and to defend themselves, they are again asking for support – and, Guarani Kaiowa affirms, they will keep asking.

 Let’s hope that Europe listens.