Brazil: 100 Days of President Lula

Ibama agents destroy a plane and camp used by illegal gold miners in the Yanomami territory. © Ibama

To mark 100 days (10 April) since the start of President Lula’s term in office, Survival International has released the following statement:

President Lula's inauguration in January 2023 offered, at last, some relief and hope to those involved in the struggle for Indigenous rights, including Survival International. While many still grieved for Indigenous friends and allies who did not survive the four brutal years of the Bolsonaro regime, the Indigenous movement remained as resolute and determined as ever, as well as hopeful that the overwhelming tide of invasions and attacks would be reversed.

At the end of President Lula’s first 100 days in office, that sense of hope has been reinforced by positive actions such as the government operation to remove miners from Yanomami territory; the renewals of Land Protection Orders on the not yet demarcated territories of some uncontacted tribes; and the historic appointments of Joenia Wapichana and Sonia Guajajara, the first Indigenous women to become the head of FUNAI and a Brazilian government minister, respectively, as well as the election of Indigenous woman Célia Xakriabá as Federal Deputy.

This hope is tempered by a sober assessment of the immense challenges that remain if Brazil’s Indigenous peoples are to achieve the justice and peace they are calling for, and which are their right. What has been done is a promising start, and marks a dramatic shift from the genocidal persecution of the Bolsonaro years. Now comes the hard work of ensuring that this shift in policy and perspective translates to upholding Indigenous land rights so that Indigenous people can survive and live in the way they choose.

Survival is therefore calling on President Lula’s government to prioritize the following:

- Recognize land rights: the Lula government will need to continue to show political will and determination to demarcate and protect Indigenous territories, against likely stiff opposition in Congress.

- Resolve the Yanomami crisis: the flagship operation in Yanomami territory must continue until all miners are evicted; the territory is permanently protected; the criminal masterminds behind the illegal gold trade are prosecuted; and long-term resources are in place to fix the health situation.

- Protect uncontacted land from invasion: many uncontacted tribes’ territories are still occupied by loggers, farmers and ranchers, such as the Jacareúba/Katawixi territory, where deforestation has doubled in the last year. Well-funded plans are needed to protect this land both legally and practically.

- Tackle violence: persistent levels of violence against Indigenous people and their allies must be actively opposed. Attackers must be fully investigated and brought to justice. These include the killers of Paulo Paulino Guajajara, Ari Uru Eu Wau Wau, Vitor Fernandes Guarani, Márcio Moreira Guarani, Bruno Pereira and Dom Philips, and many more.

- End anti-indigenous legislation: many of Bolsonaro’s extremist anti-Indigenous legislative efforts remain a threat. For example, the government must ensure the defeat of his PL490 bill, which encompasses an array of extreme anti-Indigenous measures.

- Support land recovery: Some peoples such as the Guarani have recovered only a tiny fraction of their original lands. It’s one of the worst land conflicts in the country, with regular killings of leaders, and extremely high suicide rates. They need support against the wealthy and powerful agribusiness companies who are occupying their land and attack them when they try to recover small pieces of their territory. Their lands must be demarcated, and the Time Limit Trick rejected.

The next four years represent the best chance in a long time for the resolution of dozens of Indigenous land claims across Brazil. The recognition and proper protection of all the country’s Indigenous territories remains by far the most important step towards achieving some justice at last for Brazil’s first peoples. The Indigenous movement and its allies around the world like Survival are determined to keep up the pressure until this is achieved.