Following the Public Hearing for Traditional Communities and Peoples held on Friday 31st in Salvador, the CESE team travelled to the municipality of Buerarema in the south of Bahia; specifically to Serra do Padeiro, a territory inhabited by the Tupinambás indigenous people. In order to demonstrate this nation’s traditions and customs and to expose the human rights violations to which they are subject, the meeting brought about 400 people together in the region, including quilombolas, indigenous people, Caiçara people, people from traditional fishing communities, social movements and organizations, representatives of the public authorities and a Delegation from the European Union.
The morning began with an indigenous welcome followed by the beginning of the assembly, in which representatives of traditional communities demonstrated their living conditions and the history of the struggles in their territories.
Ana Paula Zacarias, head of the European Union delegation, talked about the importance of connecting to people’s daily lives. “In our office in Brasilia we live in a bubble. It is important to come here, to have this experience of seeing the situation close up. We are ready to talk, to listen, to find out more. What is said here has an extra dimension, since it will be transmitted to the other side of the Atlantic. We are here to learn from you”, she emphasized.
The Belgian Ambassador, Jozef Smetz, stressed the importance of Brazil’s political maturity. “We are here in the presence of representatives from the state and federal level so that [what the traditional peoples have to say] can be heard. I have worked in countries where there is no democracy and it is extremely important that Brazilian democracy enables this, a meeting like this would never have happened. The fact that people can talk is already the beginning of a solution. Brazil has the capacity to solve its problems” asserted Smetz, sharing the platform with Chief Babau, a Serra do Padeiro Tupinambás leader; Wellington Pantaleão from the Secretariat for Human Rights of the Presidency of the Republic (Secretaria de Direitos Humanos da Presidência da República: SDH/PR); Ariselma Pereira, State Secretary for Justice, Citizenship and Human Rights; José Carvalho, Coordinator of the Group Torture No More, Bahia; Isabella Tomás, Minister of Austria; and representatives from Italy, Sweden, Slovenia, Finland, Spain and other countries.
As well as the indigenous and traditional peoples and leaders from social movements from Bahia and Brazil, State Deputies Yulo Oiticica and Bira Coroa and members of the National Programme for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (Programa de Proteção aos Defensores dos Direitos Humanos: PPDDH) were also present.
Expressions of the struggle
State Deputy Yulo Oiticica noted that Chief Babau is a symbol of the indigenous struggle in the country and called on the European Union and the public authorities to take a stand to protect his life – today he is living under PPDDH protection. “Babau could be killed at any time, in this region his head is worth R$500” he declared, giving as an example the human rights violations that the Tupinambás representative experienced when he was invited by the Pope to participate in the canonization ceremony for Padre Anchieta. “Three days before he left, they expedited arrest warrants to prevent his cause being recognized. He was detained in a maximum security prison in Mossoró, without any evidence. So this is our call, our appeal to you,” he continued.
The Chief listed a series of crimes perpetrated against his people, such as the cancelling of the voting rights following a mobilization of votes for Deputy Yulo conducted in the region, as well as death threats. “They also poured sewage into our rivers; the children here were dying, with no healthcare. Then we removed the illegal loggers and fishermen, after ten years we achieved this. Today there is no more death in the village, our struggle was worth it. The community school has reduced illiteracy by 90%, but the government only pays indigenous teachers R$400. It is only thanks to our struggle that we have achieved everything we have”, asserted Babau.
Sônia Gomes, CESE’s Executive Director, called on those present to join forces, given what the groups described. “CESE has a commitment to such struggles and these moments are very important, for us to see what is happening at the limits. We need conviction for this struggle. This conservative Congress has shown us what it came for and the President will need us. It is only through pressure that we will see what we want to happen on this earth,” she asserted.