Brazil bars indigenous spokeswoman from UN Forum 19 May 2011

"The Belo Monte dam threatens to devastate a vast area of the Amazon rainforest, upon which tribal peoples depend for their survival"
"The Belo Monte dam threatens to devastate a vast area of the Amazon rainforest, upon which tribal peoples depend for their survival"
© Terence Turner/Survival

The Brazilian government’s Indian Affairs Department, FUNAI, has barred Azelene Kaingang, a renowned indigenous spokeswoman, from attending the United Nations Forum on Indigenous Issues currently taking place in New York.

Azelene Kaingang, a sociologist who has been campaigning for indigenous rights in Brazil for over 20 years, says she is shocked and angered by the decision.

Kaingang was due to participate in discussions at the UN Forum, at no financial cost to Brazil. She had planned to speak about the government’s failure to consult indigenous peoples about the controversial Belo Monte dam, and its refusal to listen to the recommendation of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights that the project be put on hold, following social and environmental concerns.

However, FUNAI reportedly ordered Kaingang not to attend the Forum, instead sending two non-indigenous employees to the meetings, and arguing that the participation of other representatives is not ‘in the interest of the public administration’.

Kaingang described the ‘political persecution’ she is facing as part of a ‘silent dictatorship.. against indigenous peoples and their rights’, and said today, ‘The past has taught me not to remain silent in the face of the violations and absurdities committed against indigenous peoples by the Brazilian government. I know that in the end, we will win!’

The Belo Monte dam, if built, would devastate a vast area of the Amazon rainforest, upon which thousands of tribal people depend for their survival.

The uncontacted Indians in the area are particularly vulnerable; the influx of immigrants during the construction of the dam could put their lives at risk as they have very little immunity to outside diseases.

It is reported that the Brazilian government could imminently give the go ahead for the dam to be built.

 

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