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News > Brazil

Indigenous Leader to EU: Sanction Brazil, Avoid Genocide

  • Indigenous leader Sonia Guajajara asked the EU to sanction Brazil to avoid genocide.

    Indigenous leader Sonia Guajajara asked the EU to sanction Brazil to avoid genocide. | Photo: EFE

Published 18 December 2018

Indigenous leader Sonia Guajajara urged the EU to sanction Brazil to save Indigenous communities and the Amazon from President-elect Bolsonaro.

Sonia Guajajara, the leader of the Articulation of Brazil's Indigenous Peoples or Articulacao dos Povos Indigenas do Brasil (APBI) which represents more than 300 Brazilian Indigenous groups, called on the European Union to impose trade sanctions on Brazil to avoid an ecological disaster and potential genocide by President-elect Jair Bolsonaro.


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“We are afraid of a new genocide against the Indigenous population and we are not going to wait for it to happen. We will resist. We will defend our territories and our lives. Bolsonaro is a clear expression of [the drive for] social extermination” Guajajara told The Guardian.

Bolsonaro, who will take office on Jan. 1, has said numerous times that he will take away all the lands of Indigenous communities to carve a motorway through the Amazon. He has also referred to land rights activists as “terrorists.”

Brazil's president-elect, a former army captain, also raised the prospect of building hydro-electric power stations in the Amazon and a rail line through the heart of the rainforest that would greatly restrict water access and forcibly remove Indigenous communities.

In February, he vowed not to give up "one centimeter more" of land to Indigenous communities who are often threatened by illegal loggers, cattle ranchers, and expanding soy monoculture. Brazil is home to around 60 percent of the Amazon rainforest.

During the campaign trail  Bolsonaro said the country's minorities should bow down to the majority or disappear and in 1988 he said: “it’s a shame that the Brazilian cavalry wasn’t as efficient as the Americans, who exterminated their Indians.”

Bolsonaro promised an increase in commodity production by scrapping away regulations protecting the Amazon and the Indigenous people. The proposed bill, known as PEC 215, is a proposal to amend the Brazilian Constitution with the aim of changing the legal framework on Indigenous lands.


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Environmental activists fear that the produced commodities could be exported under a free trade deal that the EU is negotiating with Mercosur, of which Brazil is a member.

“The EU must account for the social and environmental impacts of its trade policy and boycott products from conflict areas. The EU needs to monitor and control where these products come from,” Guajajara said. “It is not enough just to accept official information; they also have to look at the situation on the ground.”

The 2007 United Nations Declaration on The Rights of Indigenous People recognizes the role of Indigenous communities in preserving forests and their right over ancestral territory. However, in 2016, 49 environmental activists were killed in Brazil and this year Jorginho Guajajara, Guardian of the Amazon, was murdered. According to rights groups, 80 members of the Guajajara people have been murdered for defending the rainforest.

“You cannot conserve the rainforest unless you preserve the lives of those who live there,” Guajajara said.

An estimated 120 Indigenous peoples still live in voluntary isolation in Brazil's Amazon.

According to the Indigenous leader, if the EU looks away now it would be “turning a blind eye to the genocide of peoples and cultures, and to the accelerated destruction of the environment and climate change. This will have consequences not just for Indigenous populations, but for the planet as a whole.”

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