The end of Rio: Brazil’s indigenous groups facing a government battle

Chiara Campanelli:

In Brazil a small group of indigenous people called Munduruku have been battling the Brazilian institution to get the recognition of their lands for years.

Munduruku, Guarani and other indigenous groups living in the Amazon Forest are facing a hard battle to get the protection of their lands against Brazilian and foreign industrial companies.

The Brazilian Economy

Brazil is the ninth largest economy in the world and its economic growth has increased thanks to investment in infrastructure and tourism until nowadays, when the Dilma Rousseff government faces a deep financial crisis during the Olympic Games. During this event Brazilian government has spent 7 billion to modernise public transport and 8.9 billion has been invested in social politics, thinking that the Olympic Games would highlight the persistent gap among Brazilian social classes.

Brazilian economic projects focus on investment in infrastructure, but health and social programmes are often left halfway through, like the failed recovery of Guanabara Bay.

Some of these investments have been led without adequate respect of the environment and indigenous rights. They have seen their lands eroded by industrialisation, illegal wood market and the building of mega-dams like Belo Monte.

Belo Monte and the Brazilian problems

Belo Monte dam has been built on the Xingu River in North Brazil. Since it outset almost 30 years ago, the project has been shrouded by many indigenous groups, complaining that Belo Monte has been carried out without their consultation. The government has always justified its operation, declaring that indigenous people have been informed about the environmental impact on their lands. Indigenous exponents have always denied it, declaring that the Brazilian institutions organise brief meetings far away from the consultations required by law.

But the government is planning the build of a giant dam – the greatest in Amazon region after Belo Monte – the Sao Luiz do Tapajos. This giant dam will be built in the Parà nation to supply the energy needs of the country. This structure stands on the Munduruku’s land, a group of 12 thousand people who have been living in Parà for hundreds of years. This small indigenous group is battling against the government and trying to obstruct the building of the dam, whose construction will destroy their land and ecosystem without their consent.

Brazil has signed the 169 ILO Convention for the rights of indigenous people – it is one of the largest countries in the world that counts a great ethnic diversity and a wide number of indigenous communities. This convention isn’t respected. During these years, about 20 environmental activists and indigenous exponents have been killed in Brazil.

Among other problems that Brazil is facing after the Rio Olympic Games, it should be considering the respect of the indigenous people and their will in the project of development. Without respect and consultation, modern, industrialised Brazil will grow leaving behind not only the lower social classes, but also Munduruku and a great slice of population.