Brazil: Human rights organization worried about FUNAI expedition to voluntarily isolated peoples
The mission is extremely dangerous for everyone involved (Press Release)
The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) is deeply concerned about a group of people belonging to the indigenous Korubo, who live in voluntary seclusion in the Vale do Javari Reserve. A few days ago, an expedition of about 30 people set out from the border region between Brazil and Peru in order to establish contact with the indigenous community. In addition to employees of the Brazilian Agency for Indigenous Affairs FUNAI (Fundação Nacional do Índio), the crew consists of medical staff, other indigenous people, police officers, and soldiers. "After 22 years, FUNAI is now breaking with the principle of trying to protect these usually very small, voluntarily secluded communities from influences from the outside," criticized Yvonne Bangert, the STP's expert on indigenous peoples, emphasizing that this mission is extremely dangerous for everyone involved.
"In the past, the Korubo have repeatedly made it clear that they do not want contact with the outside world – and the constitution gives them the right to do so. If necessary, they will defend themselves. Apart from that, it will not be possible to protect them from infectious diseases – which is why they are in mortal danger. "In the opinion of the STP, plans to vaccinate them directly after a forced contact are not realistic. Most likely, they will panic and try to escape into the forest, taking the deadly pathogens with them. FUNAI's initiative will cause strife and conflict in the area, which is inhabited by about 20 to 30 indigenous communities (most of them living in voluntary seclusion).
FUNAI justifies the expedition by referring to a call for help from the indigenous community of the Matis, whose settlements are located about 20 kilometers from the Korubo. There have been several violent conflicts between them. "The Matis were contacted in 1976, because the oil company Petrobras wanted to drill in their area. In view of the increased efforts of Bolsonaro's government to economically exploit even the last bits of untouched rainforest in the Amazon region, the call for help might just as well be a sham," Bangert stated. "FUNAI should do its job and protect the Korubo from any unwanted external contact. The Korubo are merely defending themselves and their territory against invaders – even against other indigenous communities."
In the course of the change of government, FUNAI was disassociated from the Ministry of Justice by means of provisional decree. Now, the Ministry of Agriculture is responsible for land title issues, while the authority itself will be under the control of the Ministry of Women, Family and Human Rights. The new president of FUNAI (since 2019) is General Franklimberg Ribeiro de Freitas – who had run the agency from May 2017 to April 2018 before resigning due to massive criticism from the agrarian lobby, which wanted much faster initiatives to make the indigenous areas available for economic development.
Header Image: Amazonia Real via Flickr