Brazil: More on plight of indigenous at World social forum

Amazon Indian reservations continue to be invaded by loggers, ranchers
and farmers, despite a global financial crisis that has hurt the
demand for their commodities, representatives from across the region
said Friday. Indians at the World Social Forum told The Associated
Press that a lack of government support is undercutting the fight
against illegal invasions by people seeking to clear the rain forest
for profit.

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“Our territory is supposedly protected, but the loggers are always
coming in and taking our land,” said 19-year-old Leve Srezasu, an
Indian of the Guarani tribe in Brazil’s Tocantins state, where there
have often been violent clashes over land. Environmentalists and the
government blame most Amazon deforestation on illegal clearing for
lumber, farming and grazing of livestock, much of it on ancestral
lands that the Brazilian government in 1988 promised to return to its
Indian tribes. While that process has yet to be completed, about 11
percent of Brazilian territory and nearly 22 percent of the Amazon is
now in Indian hands. In the last 20 years, Brazil’s government has
made big efforts to protect Indians and the Amazon, creating
government agencies and watchdog groups to stop the damage to forests
and those who live in them. But critics say the government either
lacks the money or political will to give the agencies the manpower,
boats and helicopters needed to police the Amazon, a sparsely
populated region the size of western Europe.

“The majority of senators
are supported by big business,” said indigenous rights leader Marcos
Xukuru. “This has completely trapped the process of demarcating Indian
reserves.” Brazil’s national Indian bureau, known as Funai, did not
immediately respond to requests for comment about the protection of
Indian reserves and illegal logging on them. Brazil’s President Luiz
Inacio Lula da Silva has often bristled at criticism — especially
coming from outside Brazil — on his government’s handling of the
Amazon. “There are many people making guesses about the Amazon without
knowing that almost 25 million people live here who want to work, who
want access to material goods and who don’t want the Amazon to be a
sanctuary for humanity,” he told reporters in Belem.

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