With rights under threat, Brazil's indigenous run for office

Posted by On 8:47 AM

With rights under threat, Brazil's indigenous run for office

SAO PAULO (AP) â€" The number of indigenous Brazilians running for office has surged this year at a time when many feel their cultures and lands are more threatened than they have been in decades.

At least 120 indigenous people are running in Sunday's elections for offices at state and federal levels. While that's a tiny fraction of the more than 25,000 people running overall, it's a 60 percent increase over the number of candidates in the last elections in 2014, the first year in which authorities collected information about candidates' ethnicities.

"We're tired of being invisible. We're tired of people speaking for us. We want a voice," said Airy Gaviao, an indigenous candidate for the local legislature in the capital of Brasilia.

Only one indigenous person has ever been elected to Brazil's Congress: Mario Juruna fro m the Xavante people, who served one term in the 1980s. It's unclear if any of this year's candidates can end that drought, though widespread anger at Brazil's traditional ruling class could favor candidates perceived as outsiders.

Less than 1 percent of Brazilians â€" around 790,000 â€" count themselves as indigenous, their numbers decimated by disease and oppression following the arrival of Europeans and African slaves whose descendants now make up the majority of the country's current population.

In this Sept. 15, 2018 photo, Sonia Guajajara, indigenous candidate for vice president with the Socialism and Liberty Party, puts on her headdress before a campaign rally in the Ceilandia neighborhood of Brasilia, Brazil. The number of indigenous Brazilians running for office has surged this year, including the first two vice presidential candidates, at a time when many feel their cultures and lands are more threatened than t   hey have been in decades. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
In this Sept. 15, 2018 photo, Sonia Guajajara, indigenous candidate for vice president with the Socialism and Liberty Party, puts on her headdress before a campaign rally in the Ceilandia neighborhood of Brasilia, Brazil. The number of indigenous Brazilians running for office has surged this year, including the first two vice presidential candidates, at a time when many feel their cultures and lands are more threatened than they have been in decades. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres) (AP)

Many of the more than 300 distinct indigenous peoples live at the margins of society. Some reside on isolated land reserves much the way their ancestors did, while others dwell in impoverished urban pockets. As a whole, they are poorer and less literate than th e general population and face continuing prejudice.

But indigenous people have played a growing role in Brazil's larger culture since the country's return to democracy in the 1980s. The increased political participation seen now may also be one of the dividends of policies such as quotas and scholarships that improved indigenous people's access to universities in the mid-2000s, said Luis Roberto de Paula, a social anthropologist who has studied the issue.

In this Sept.13, 2018 photo, Junior Xukuru, an indigenous candidate is running for the lower house of Congress with the Socialism and Liberty Party, hands out pamphlets as he campaigns at a bus station in Brasilia, Brazil. At least 120 indigenous people are running in October elections at state and federal levels, a 60 percent increase over the number of candidates in the last elections in 2014, the first year in which authorities collected information about candidates'    ethnicities. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
In this Sept.13, 2018 photo, Junior Xukuru, an indigenous candidate is running for the lower house of Congress with the Socialism and Liberty Party, hands out pamphlets as he campaigns at a bus station in Brasilia, Brazil. At least 120 indigenous people are running in October elections at state and federal levels, a 60 percent increase over the number of candidates in the last elections in 2014, the first year in which authorities collected information about candidates' ethnicities. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres) (AP)

It also reflects fears that their cultures and lands are under serious threat. Many indigenous lands are fertile and hold native forests or rich mines that have prompted farmers, ranchers, loggers and miners to try to open them to deve lopment â€" sometimes by force.

"We can't protect our communities from being invaded. So, what we see is that the state doesn't represent us at any level," said David Karai Popygua, a 30-year-old teacher and a leader in the Indigenous Land of Jaragua, a group of traditional settlements on the outskirts of Sao Paulo. "And that is why we need to participate in the elections."

In this Sept. 15, 2018 photo, Junior Xukuru, an indigenous candidate who is running for the lower house of Congress with the Socialism and Liberty Party, talks on his cellphone during a campaign rally in the Ceilandia neighborhood of Brasilia, Brazil. Less than 1 percent of Brazilians _ around 790,000 _ count themselves as indigenous, their numbers devastated by disease and oppression following the arrival of Europeans and African slaves whose descendants make up the majority of the country's current population. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
In this Sept. 15, 2018 photo, Junior Xukuru, an indigenous candidate who is running for the lower house of Congress with the Socialism and Liberty Party, talks on his cellphone during a campaign rally in the Ceilandia neighborhood of Brasilia, Brazil. Less than 1 percent of Brazilians _ around 790,000 _ count themselves as indigenous, their numbers devastated by disease and oppression following the arrival of Europeans and African slaves whose descendants make up the majority of the country's current population. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres) (AP)

While the indigenous agenda has struggled under previous administrations, the Coalition of Indigenous People of Brazil has accused President Michel Temer's government of the worst attacks on their rights in 30 years. Indigenous activists are especially concerned about a recent rule that they say will make the recognition of pending land claims virtually impossible.

Many fear the situation could get worse. The man leading presidential polls for Oct. 7 elections, far-right congressman Jair Bolsonaro, has said he would not recognize any more indigenous lands if elected.

In this Sept. 15, 2018 photo, Airy Gaviao, an indigenous candidate with the Socialism and Liberty Party who is running for the local legislature in the capital of Brasilia, campaigns in the Ceilandia neighborhood of Brasilia, Brazil. The Coalition of Indigenous People of Brazil has accused President Michel Temer's government of the worst attacks on their rights in 30 years. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
In this Sept. 15, 2018 photo, Airy Gaviao, an indigenous candidate with the Socialism and Liberty Party who is running for the local legislature in the capital of Brasilia, campaigns in the Ceilandia neighborhood of Brasilia, Brazil. The Coalition of Indigenous People of Brazil has accused President Michel Temer's government of the worst attacks on their rights in 30 years. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres) (AP)

While Bolsonaro's running mate, retired Gen. Hamilton Mourao, described himself as indigenous when he registered as a candidate, he's far better known for his military career. He outraged many indigenous Brazilians by saying the country inherited "indolence" from its native peoples.

Another vice presidential candidate, activist Sonia Guajajara, has helped bring indigenous issues to the national stage, though her tiny Socialism and Liberty Party has little chance of winning more than a small share of seats in Congress and at state levels.

In this Sept. 15, 2018 photo, indigenous candidates for federal and city lawmakers with the Socialism and Liberty Party, Junior Xukuru and Airy Gaviao, get ready for a campaign rally in the Ceilandia neighborhood of Brasilia, Brazil. Land recognition is one of the most important issues to indigenous people, who see such reserves as integral to maintaining their endangered cultures. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
In this Sept. 15, 2018 photo, indigenous candidates for federal and city lawmakers with the Socialism and Liberty Party, Junior Xukuru and Airy Gaviao, get ready for a campaign rally in the Ceilandia neighborhood of Brasilia, Brazil. Land recognition is one of the most important issues to indigenous people, who see such reserves as integral to maintaining their endangered cultures. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres) ( AP)

Brazil's 1988 Constitution recognized indigenous people's rights to their native lands and called for the official demarcation of those areas within five years. But that process remains unfinished, partially because of bureaucracy and resistance by powerful agribusiness, mining and other commercial interests.

More than 405,000 square miles (1 million square kilometers) â€" much of it in the Amazon â€" have been designated as indigenous territory, but indigenous groups claim another 40,500 square miles (105,000 square kilometers) that are still somewhere in the process of designation, according to the non-governmental Socioenvironmental Institute, which works on environmental and human rights issues.

In this Sept. 13, 2018 photo, Junior Xukuru, who is running for the lower house of Congress with the Socialism and Liberty Party, left, speaks to a vendor as he hands out pamphlets at a bus station in    Brasilia, Brazil. A flood of corruption scandals has shaken Brazilians' faith in their democracy, hardened partisan divisions and unleashed a tidal wave of "throw the bums out" anger _ a factor that could benefit indigenous candidates, said Xukuru, an indigenous candidate for the lower house of Congress. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
In this Sept. 13, 2018 photo, Junior Xukuru, who is running for the lower house of Congress with the Socialism and Liberty Party, left, speaks to a vendor as he hands out pamphlets at a bus station in Brasilia, Brazil. A flood of corruption scandals has shaken Brazilians' faith in their democracy, hardened partisan divisions and unleashed a tidal wave of "throw the bums out" anger _ a factor that could benefit indigenous candidates, said Xukuru, an indigenous c andidate for the lower house of Congress. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres) (AP)

Bolsonaro and lawmakers from the rural caucus that represents large landowners in Congress have argued that demarcating indigenous lands shuts them off from economic development.

Defenders of demarcation say that's partially the point: The lands become the property of the federal government for the exclusive use of indigenous people â€" and become better protected from degradation and deforestation.

In this Sept. 15, 2018 photo, Airy Gaviao, center, an indigenous candidate for the local legislature in the capital of Brasilia for the Socialism and Liberty Party, poses for a photo with children during a campaign rally in the Ceilandia neighborhood of Brasilia, Brazil. It's unclear if any of this year's candidates can end the drought of indigenous leaders in politics, though widespread anger at Brazil's traditional ruling cl   ass could favor candidates perceived as outsiders.(AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
In this Sept. 15, 2018 photo, Airy Gaviao, center, an indigenous candidate for the local legislature in the capital of Brasilia for the Socialism and Liberty Party, poses for a photo with children during a campaign rally in the Ceilandia neighborhood of Brasilia, Brazil. It's unclear if any of this year's candidates can end the drought of indigenous leaders in politics, though widespread anger at Brazil's traditional ruling class could favor candidates perceived as outsiders.(AP Photo/Eraldo Peres) (AP)

Last year, 70 people were killed in land conflicts, the most since 2003, according to the Pastoral Land Commission, a non-governmental organization that tracks violence.

For now, a flood of corruption scandals has shaken Brazilians' faith in their democracy, hardened partisan divisions and unleashed a tidal wave of "throw the bums out" anger â€" factors which could benefit indigenous candidates who tend to be newcomers and not tainted by scandal, said Junior Xukuru, an indigenous candidate for the lower house of Congress.

In this Sept. 15, 2018 photo, Junior Xukuru wears his indigenous head dress as he campaigns for the lower house of Congress with the Socialism and Liberty Party, in the Ceilandia neighborhood of Brasilia, Brazil. Indigenous people have played a growing role in the larger culture since Brazil's return to democracy in the 1980s. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
In this Sept. 15, 2018 photo, Junior Xukuru wears his indigenous head dress as he c ampaigns for the lower house of Congress with the Socialism and Liberty Party, in the Ceilandia neighborhood of Brasilia, Brazil. Indigenous people have played a growing role in the larger culture since Brazil's return to democracy in the 1980s. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres) (AP)

While indigenous candidates have seen some success in local politics â€" 136 were elected in the 2016 municipal elections, including seven mayors â€" getting to Congress is crucial, said Juliana Cardoso, whose father is from the Terena indigenous group.

"In the political moment that we're living in, every kinsman understands that we ... have to go to the Congress," said Cardoso, who is also running for the lower house. "We're suffering. We're dying. We're not able to pass our cultures down from our ancestors to our children."

In this Sept. 15, 2018 photo, Sonia Guajajara, an indigenous candid   ate running for vice president with the Socialism and Liberty Party, speaks to supporters at a campaign rally in the Ceilandia neighborhood of Brasilia, Brazil. Indigenous activists are especially concerned about a recent rule that they say will make the recognition of pending land claims virtually impossible and could even be used to claw back already designated land.(AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
In this Sept. 15, 2018 photo, Sonia Guajajara, an indigenous candidate running for vice president with the Socialism and Liberty Party, speaks to supporters at a campaign rally in the Ceilandia neighborhood of Brasilia, Brazil. Indigenous activists are especially concerned about a recent rule that they say will make the recognition of pending land claims virtually impossible and could even be used to claw back already designat ed land.(AP Photo/Eraldo Peres) (AP)

___

Associated Press journalist Victor Caivano contributed to this report.

In this Sept. 15, 2018 photo, Junior Xukuru, an indigenous candidate running for the lower house of Congress, left, takes part in a ritual dance with fellow indigenous candidates Airy Gaviao, right, who's running for the local legislature in the capital of Brasilia, and Sonia Guajajara, who's running for vice president with the Socialism and Liberty Party, during a campaign rally in the Ceilandia neighborhood of Brasilia, Brazil. Increased political participation may be one of the dividends from policies, including quotas and scholarships, that improved indigenous people's access to universities in the mid-2000s, said Luis Roberto de Paula, a social anthropologist who has studied the issue. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
In this Sept. 15, 2018 photo, Junior Xukuru, an indigenous candidate running for the lower house of Congress, left, takes part in a ritual dance with fellow indigenous candidates Airy Gaviao, right, who's running for the local legislature in the capital of Brasilia, and Sonia Guajajara, who's running for vice president with the Socialism and Liberty Party, during a campaign rally in the Ceilandia neighborhood of Brasilia, Brazil. Increased political participation may be one of the dividends from policies, including quotas and scholarships, that improved indigenous people's access to universities in the mid-2000s, said Luis Roberto de Paula, a social anthropologist who has studied the issue. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres) (AP)
Source: Google News South B razil | Netizen 24 Brazil

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