Brazilian Indians in London in bid to save Amazon

June 20, 2008

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Two Brazilian Indians will arrive in London next week to make a desperate plea for help to save their Amazon forest home.

- Photo opportunity: Wednesday 25 June, 12 noon, Westminster Green (opposite Houses of Parliament)

The Indians’ tribes and their land are under attack from Brazilian farmers who have shot and wounded ten people, burned bridges and thrown a bomb into an Indian community.

The two Indians, from the Makuxi and Wapixana tribes, will meet with British MPs at Westminster and officials at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to ask for help to save their land.

The Makuxi, Wapixana and three other tribes have fought for decades to get the Brazilian government to protect their territory, known as Raposa Serra do Sol.

President Lula officially recognised the territory in 2005 – but a group of powerful farmers, who occupy a significant part of it, refuse to leave the area.

The government of Roraima state supports the farmers, and is petitioning the Brazilian Supreme Court to give them a large piece of the Indians’ land.

Research by Brazilian and US scientists shows that the most effective way to stop deforestation in the Amazon is to protect Indian lands, which occupy one fifth of the Brazilian Amazon.

Two famous British authors, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Evelyn Waugh, were inspired by Raposa Serra do Sol – a spectacular land of mountains, tropical forest, savannas and waterfalls – which features in their novels ‘The Lost World’ and ‘A Handful of Dust’.

Survival’s director Stephen Corry said today, ‘This is an absolutely crucial battle for Brazilian Indians and for the Amazon. If the farmers and politicians succeed in stealing Raposa Serra do Sol, Indians all over Brazil could see their land stolen too. We cannot allow this to happen.’

CAFOD Brazil Programme Manager Cecilia Iorio said today, ‘We stand shoulder to shoulder with the Indigenous Council of Roraima. If there is any setback in this symbolic case, it will be hard to believe that there is a real commitment from the Government to implement Indigenous rights in Brazil.’

Amnesty International is also supporting the Indians’ visit to Europe.

- Notes to Editors: The two Indian visitors are available for interview. They are Jacir José de Souza (male), a Makuxi leader and founder of the Indigenous Council of Roraima, and Pierlangela Nascimento da Cunha (female), a Wapixana leader and coordinator of the Roraima Organisation of Indigenous Teachers. The pair have already visited Spain and are also travelling to France, Belgium, Italy and Portugal.

- The Indigenous Council of Roraima has taken the issue to the UN and to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

For further information please contact Miriam Ross on (44) (0)20 7687 8734 or (44) (0)7504 543 367 or email [email protected]

Indians of Raposa–Serra do Sol