Frustrated with Brazil’s Lula, Indigenous peoples march to demand land recognition

BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) — Thousands of Indigenous people marched on Thursday in Brazil’s capital, calling on the government to officially recognize lands they have lived on for centuries and to protect territories from criminal activities like illegal mining.

With posters bearing messages like, “The future is Indigenous,” they walked towards Three Powers Square, where Congress, the Supreme Court, and the Planalto presidential palace are located in Brasilia.

In addition to calls for more land recognition, some tribes protested a proposed 950-kilometer (590 miles) rail project to transport soybeans from the state of Mato Grosso, in the central part of the country, to ports along the Tapajos River, a large Amazon tributary.

Indigenous leaders from the Kayapo, Panará and Munduruku tribes said they hadn’t been adequately consulted and feared the new infrastructure would lead to increased deforestation.

Thursday’s rally marked the culmination of the annual Free Land Indigenous Camp, now in its 20th edition. This year’s gathering marked a critical view of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva‘s administration. Unlike the two previous years, the president was not invited to visit the camp, set up in Brasilia’s main esplanade.

Previously president between 2003 and 2010, Lula began a third term in January of last year. Since then, his administration has created 10 Indigenous territories, which Indigenous leaders say is not enough. According to the non-profit Socio-Environmental Institute, at least 251 territories have pending claims for recognition before the federal government.

Indigenous territories comprise about 13% of Brazil’s territory. Most of these areas are in the Amazon rainforest.

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