Brazil: top indigenous official resigns

Security guards shot and seriously injured an indigenous Terena, Josiel Gabriel Alves, on June 4 when a group of about 60 protesters tried to occupy the São Sebastião estate in Sidrolandia municipality in the southern Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul. Doctors said Gabriel might lose the use of his arms and legs. This was the second shooting in less than a week in an ongoing dispute over lands claimed by the Terena: Osiel Gabriel, Josiel Gabriel's cousin, was killed by federal police on May 30 at a nearby estate. The Terena have been occupying several large estates in Sidrolandia since May 15; they say the estates are on land the federal government designated as indigenous territory in 2010. The 28,000 Terena live on just 20,000 hectares in Mato Grosso. (Adital, Brazil, June 5)

On June 6 Terena activists joined with representatives of the Munduruku indigenous group for protests at government offices in Brasilia. The Munduruku are among eight indigenous groups that have repeatedly occupied construction sites at the Belo Monte dam in the northern Brazilian state of Pará over the past year; the most recent occupation took place on May 28. The protests have held up work on the dam, which is projected to be the world's third largest when completed. Some 140 Munduruku were in Brasilia for a meeting with Presidency Minister Gilberto Carvalho and other government officials on June 4. Valdenir Munduruku, a spokesperson for the group, told Brazilian media that the activists are demanding a complete halt of construction until indigenous people in the region have been consulted on the project, as required by International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 169. Brazil has signed on to the convention, which guarantees a number of rights for indigenous people, including the right to prior consultation on projects that will affect their communities. The Munduruku are threatening to resume the occupation if they aren't satisfied with the results of negotiations.

Brazil recognizes 305 different ethnic groups, representing some 896,900 indigenous people, less than 0.5% of Brazil's 194 million citizens; officially designated indigenous lands take up about 12% of the national territory. The protests in Mato Grosso and Pará confront Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff with the most serious indigenous conflicts since she took office in January 2011. On June 7 the president of the government's National Indigenous Foundation (FUNAI), Marta Azevedo, announced her resignation. FUNAI is the agency responsible for Brazil's indigenous policies. Azevedo cited health problems. (Agência Brasil, June 7, via Ultimo Segundo, Brazil; TeleSUR, June 7, some from AFP) 

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, June 9.