BRASILIA – Some 1,000 indigenous people occupied the main avenue of Brasilia this Friday to protest against the policies of the Jair Bolsonaro government in a peaceful demonstration that put an end to their three days of camping out in the capital.
The march represented the end of the Terra Libre (Free Land) camp, which has been installed every April since 2004 and brings together in Brasilia thousands of indigenous people from the country’s many tribes.
The last demonstration by the campers was held peacefully on the Ministries Esplanade, a downtown avenue of the capital where all government buildings are located.
Wearing feather headdresses and usually with their bodies painted, the indigenous tribes performed during the march a number of rituals dedicated to nature and their native lands, for which they asked “peace” and “respect,” though without lowering the combative tone of their chants and slogans.
“Indigenous blood, not one drop more,” said a large banner with reference to the many indigenous deaths in conflicts between native tribes and big agriculture, violent conflicts that in their vast majority originate in disputes over lands.
Throughout the demonstration, the indigenous people made stops in front of Congress and others at the Justice Ministry, where they bathed and danced in the large ponds around the building.
At the ministry, a small indigenous commission was received by authorities of the office now headed by former Judge Sergio Moro, to whom they expressed their displeasure at some decisions made by the government of the ultra-right Bolsonaro.
One of the main requests of the native peoples is that the National Indigenous Foundation (Funai) start operating again as a part of the Justice Ministry, from which it was withdrawn last year and moved to the new office of Family, Woman and Human Rights, directed by evangelical pastor Damares Alves.
They also demanded that Funai recover the power it once had over the demarcation of new indigenous territories, which has been transferred to the Agriculture Ministry, whose minister, Tereza Cristina Correa, maintains close ties with big rural landowners.
During the demonstration they also repeated the rejection of most ethnicities to Bolsonaro’s proposal that they allow private companies to mine for minerals on their lands in exchange for some form of economic compensation.
“Nature isn’t negotiable,” said Dinamam Tuxa of the Coordinator for the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (Apib), which since 2004 has organized the Tierra Libre campsite.
Though the government worried about eventual conflicts during the march and deployed hundreds of police officers along its route, the demonstration went off peacefully without any kind of incident.