BRASILIA – Some 50 Guarani Indians gathered on Wednesday in front of Brazil’s justice ministry to protest a recent government move to shrink the size of their reserve by more by than 90 percent.
In an executive order released two weeks ago, the right-wing administration of President Michel Temer amended a 2015 decision establishing a reserve for the group inside Pico de Jaragua National Park, located on the outskirts of Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city.
The new demarcation reduces the indigenous reserve from 512 hectares (1,264 acres) to 3 hectares.
Guaranis have lived in the region corresponding to present-day Sao Paulo for more than three centuries and the Pico de Jaragua reserve is home to roughly 700 people.
The government’s action “represents an enormous threat to the indigenous peoples, as it can be used as a precedent and later lead to the reduction of other reserves,” Guarani leader Karai Popygua told reporters at Wednesday’s protest.
The Indigenous Missionary Council, which operates under the auspices of Brazil’s Catholic bishops conference, has harshly criticized the decision, calling it “unfair, discriminatory, shameful and genocidal” to confine the Pico de Jaragua Guarani to a “flagrantly insufficient space.”
Temer’s administration is “the most anti-indigenous” government Brazil has had since the 1964-1985 military regime, the council said.
Brazil has established nearly 600 indigenous reserves with a total land area of 109.6 million hectares, representing 13 percent of the national territory. Those enclaves are inhabited by 480,000 people from 227 different ethnic groups.