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To His Holiness
Pope Francis

Holy Father:

As leaders representing the largest indigenous organization in Brazil, the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB), we are honored to greet you reverently, thanking you for the explicit choice your papal mission has made in favor of the least favored people on the planet, especially the peoples and organizations of the countryside. As original peoples, over 500 years of colonization still impacts us today, threatening our lands and our extinction in order to satisfy the interests of profit and exacerbated consumption of the few. This is driven by the spirit of capital, of destruction, and will lead to the death of Mother Earth and all the living beings she holds in her holy arms.

We would like to bring your attention to this programmed hecatomb that will sacrifice the indigenous peoples of Brazil. Since he took office on January 1st of this year, President Jair Bolsonaro has chosen us as the artillery targets for supposed development project he wants to impose at any cost on our lands, territories and the natural resources we have protected for thousands of years.

Bolsonaro dismantled the various institutions and public policies that with much struggle we conquered from the Brazilian State through the Constitution of 1988, recognizing our ethnic and cultural specificity. The Constitution recognizes our social organization, customs, languages, beliefs and traditions, and our customary rights to the lands we have traditionally occupied. The Union is obligated to demarcate and protect our lands. Land is indispensable for the preservation of the natural resources necessary for our well-being, and necessary for our physical and cultural reproduction in accordance with our uses, customs and traditions. Our lands are therefore recognized as our permanent possession and reserved for our exclusive enjoyment, including the riches of the soil, rivers and lakes in them. According to the Constitution, our lands are inalienable and the rights over them imprescriptible.

Notwithstanding the constitutional text, backed by international treaties signed by Brazil, the government has stepped up attacks on our fundamental rights. President Bolsonaro himself has repeatedly stated that as long as he governs the country, he will not demarcate another inch of indigenous land. He has also completely dismantled the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI) responsible for the demarcation and protection of indigenous lands and the promotion of indigenous rights in articulation with other public agencies; gutted national environmental policies, disfiguring environmental oversight and controls; terminated or restricted specialized institutions and policies for our peoples in the area of ​​environmental and territorial management, indigenous school education, and the indigenous health subsystem; and extinguished mechanisms and spaces for citizen participation and social control. He has also exerted strong influence on the National Congress, in collusion with the economic forces represented there, to relax or backtrack on environmental legislation and restrict or suppress our constitutional rights, especially our customary rights to our territories. These rights are also under threat within the judiciary, which under pressure from landowners and agribusiness, threatens to regress in its interpretation of indigenous peoples’ rights to our traditional lands.

Government policy and speeches have thus been one of the main elements stimulating the violence, conflict, invasion and criminalization that our peoples and leaders suffer on our territories. The situation has led to increasing numbers of indigenous leaders being threatened, persecuted and murdered.

The Brazilian government’s death project is pushing to implement large development projects that will have unpredictable and irreversible impacts on our lands and territories, even where people in voluntary isolation and recent contact are present. These projects – for agribusiness, ranching, mining, hydropower, roads and transmission lines – threaten our lives, and violate our right to consultation and free, prior and informed consent, upheld by national and international law.

For all this, Holy Father, we hereby present our appeal to your Holiness, in the hope that it may help push the Brazilian government to end this brutal offensive that threatens our ways of life, our peoples, languages and cultures – and our very lives.

Vatican City, October 21, 2019.

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