A total of 219 lawmakers and 29 senators launched a new campaign on Thursday as part of Brazil's Joint Parliamentary Front in Defense of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, a progressive initiative aimed at opposing the Parliamentary Farmers' Front, the "ruralist group" which is linked to local agribusinesses.
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The progressive parliamentary group will be led by its promoter, Joenia Wapichana, the first indigenous woman to hold a seat in the Chamber of Deputies.
"The Joint front aims to face the setback that Indigenous peoples are already suffering," she said and added that "its mission is to safeguard the Indigenous peoples' constitutional rights and place their issues in both the legislative agenda and the policy making process."
The group is made up of the Sustainability Network (Rede), the Socialism and Liberty Party (Psol), the Workers' Party (PT), Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB), the Communist Party (PCdoB) and Democratic Labour Party (PDT), all of which are expected to ensure that the Indigenous peoples are heard.
Despite the support of multilateral agreements, one of which is the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention from the International Labour Organization (ILO), their objectives will be difficult to achieve as the Brazilian legislature has been traditionally controlled by anti-indigenous, anti-poor and pro-business lawmakers.
"Brazil's first Indigenous federal deputy launched the Joint Parliamentary Front to Defend the Rights of Indigenous Peoples at the National Congress."
"The Brazilian constitution orders to listen to the communities and the ILO-Convention 169 states that any legislative or administrative process or measure must be supported by a free, prior and informed consultation process with indigenous peoples, so that they can bring out their concerns," the congresswoman stressed.
The Joint front plans to focus its inmediate attention on the fight against the municipalization of indigenous health, which is a proposal whereby President Jair Bolsonaro seeks to eliminate the Special Secretariat for Indigenous Health, a federal institution aimed at improving the living conditions of the rural communities.
The defense of the indigenous territories and the National Indian Foundation, which is a governmental body that establishes and carries out policies related to the indigenous peoples, are also expected to be at the progressives’ agenda.
"We occupy the 13 percent of the Brazilian territory, where there are more than 305 Indigenous peoples living. We are more than one million inhabitants," congresswoman Wapichana said, recalling that Indigenous peoples have been taking care of almost 20 percent of the Amazon basin.