Local elections in Brazil (November 15)
More indigenous candidates than ever before (Press Release)
Next Sunday, November 15, Brazil will hold local elections. There are 39 mayoral offices, 73 deputy positions, and 2,082 city council seats to be filled. This year, 2,194 indigenous people are running for these positions – 28 percent more than in the last local elections four years ago. "The political situation of the indigenous people of Brazil has deteriorated considerably over the last two years," explained Juliana Miyazaki, expert on indigenous peoples at the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP). "The people are deeply worried because of increasing invasions, devastating forest fires and environmental degradation, the state's reluctance to protect indigenous territories, and the neglect of indigenous communities in the pandemic. Thus, many try to become involved in the framework of democratic structures.
The individual political positions of the indigenous candidates are by no means always identical: There are indigenous candidates in 32 political parties, some of which are very different. But there are some demands that almost all candidates can agree on, despite their differences: environmental protection and the striving for recognition of indigenous territories. "To defend the land means to protect those who live there," is Eloy Jacintho's motto. The 42-year-old Guarani Nhandewa is an indigenous activist and has already served as a city councilor in Santa Amélia. "Indigenous city councils are more necessary today than ever. There is a lack of water, but too many fires and diseases. The impact on the future of the indigenous communities will be devastating," he thinks.
"In Boa Vista, we have never had indigenous councilors, despite the fact that there are almost 20,000 indigenous people living there. We have to become more involved in the decision-making – now more than ever. It's a form of resistance," explained Ariane Sussui, 23, of the Wapichana people. She became involved in politics as a volunteer for the election campaign of federal deputy Joênia Wapichana. She is the first female indigenous member of the Brazilian parliament. Joênia, who was elected in 2018, is a role model and a beacon of hope for many who are running for office at the municipal level this year.
"Success stories like this are important because they encourage others," confirmed STP expert Miyazaki. "Even if the reasons why people get involved are often dramatic: It is a good thing that there are more and more indigenous candidates – and, consequently, also more indigenous representatives in the town halls and parliaments. They can try to act as a counterweight to the interests of the agricultural and raw materials lobby, in the interest of the entire country.
The umbrella organization of Brazil's indigenous peoples, APIB, runs a database of indigenous candidates. It is only available in Portuguese (http://campanhaindigena.org).