Matopiba: Killing the Cerrado and its people

Assembly of Indigenous Peoples of Goias and Tocantins | 23 June 2016 | Português

The President of the Republic
The Ministry of Justice
The National Indian Foundation (FUNAI)
The Federal Public Ministry (MPF)
Brazilian society

Matopiba: killing the Cerrado and its people

Final report from the III Assembly of Indigenous Peoples of Goias and Tocantins, 20-23 June 2016

As the last trees of the Cerrado fall; the last remaining springs and clean rivers vanish; the animals and other species of the region desperately struggle in the face of the contamination of the land, water and air; and when the sun scorches the earth; then all forms of life will be doomed. Only then will our warning cries be remembered, but it will be too late. A few unscrupulous humans, driven by boundless greed, have ordered the end of life as we know it. The wealthy and privileged will also perish. However, it will be too late, as our warning cries will have been stifled.

In order to resist this destructive process against all life, it is imperative that our indigenous ancestral wisdom, as well as the traditional knowledge of communities and forest peoples, be respected and valued. Our voice and our cry should be added to those of scientists, researchers, all those who love Planet Earth—our common home—as well as Pope Francis and others who celebrate Life.

That is why we, the Apinajé, Krahô, Xerente, Karajá Xambioá, Krahô-Kanela, Kanela of Tocantins, Avá-Canoeiro and Javaé indigenous peoples from Tocantins, Tapuia from Goiás, Kayapó from Para, Guarani Kaiowá from Mato Grosso do Sul and Pataxó Uh-Uh-Hãe, from Bahia, along with traditional communities, including the quebradeiras de coco (women “coconut breakers”), quilombolas (Afro-Brazilians), riverine communities, peasants and pastoralists stand together and say NO to the Matopiba Agricultural Development Plan (PDA), which is a project of destruction and death for the Cerrado and its people in the areas of Maranhão, Tocantins, Piauí and Bahia.

This is the latest in a series of projects that have been implemented over the last few decades in this ecosystem, with the goal of imposing a developmental logic that favours agribusiness and the export of commodities. Programmes such as “Prodecer” I, II and III and “Campos Lindos” and “Formoso” were the result of a project conducted in partnership with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The project was designed by representatives of various companies and the Japanese government, with the aim of exploiting the Cerrado in order to strengthen Brazil’s position in the international grain trade. Over 40 years, the result of this has been an increase in deforestation—with a reduction of more than 70 per cent of the country’s vegetation and widespread soil compaction and contamination, resulting in a decrease in rainfall, with aquifers consequently no longer being replenished and rivers and streams drying up, seriously threatening access to water and people’s food sovereignty.

We also say NO to mega-infrastructure projects such as dams, canals and roads; agribusiness including monocultures, irrigation, the massive use of pesticides and the privatisation of seeds. These activities contribute to the same process of destruction and death. We reject the construction of the Serra Quebrada, Santa Isabel and Perdida II hydroelectric plants and the Maraba and Araguiaia/Tocantins canals.

We are opposed to this devastation and want to contribute instead to building a new society that is respectful of Mother Earth, a world in which all forms of life can coexist in harmony. We want to offer our wisdom, knowledge and proposals for Living Well (Bem Viver).

Given the above, we demand:
  1. An immediate stop to the demarcation of our traditional lands: Taego Ãwa, of the Avá Canoeiro people; the land of the Kanela of Tocantins; a stop to the demarcation of indigenous territory belonging to Krahô-Kanela; and Apinajé II /Gameleira, of the Apinajé people and the Krahô people of Takaywrá village;
  2. A stop to border revisions in Carretão territory, belonging to the Tapuia people of Goiás;
  3. The immediate demarcation, non-intrusion and protection of the Taego Ãwa indigenous land of the Ava-Canoeiro people;
  4. That the National Congress archives the Proposed Constitutional Amendment (PEC) 215; Bill 1610, which opens up indigenous lands to mining exploitation and others who seek to take our constitutional rights;
  5. That the National Congress archives PEC 65/2012, which eases environmental licensing. We reject manoeuvres that put the interests of agribusiness and large landed estates above Life and disrespect the Constitution, which in Article 225 guarantees the right to a healthy environment for all;
  6. That public hearings be held to discuss the PDA / MATOPIBA and the possible impacts and interferences of this programme in the Cerrado biome and indigenous territories, quilombolas and in other rural communities, and that full participation of these movements is guaranteed;
  7. That the federal government cancel the PDA-MATOPIBA programme and the competent bodies embargo all on-going projects in the states of Maranhão, Tocantins, Piauí and Bahia;
  8. Compliance with Brazilian and international law, for example, the Studies and Environmental Impact Reports (EIA/RIMA) and Convention 169 of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in relation to all projects considered impactful which involve deforestation, use of pesticides, dams, mining, the timber industry, waterways and any change to our traditional ways of life;
  9. That judgment is urgently cast regarding the Direct Unconstitutionality Action (ADIN) 5312 of state bill 2.713/2013, which exempts the environmental licensing of silvopasture activities that integrate farming, livestock and forestry, impactful agribusiness ventures;
  10. That Minister Teori Zavascki of the Supreme Court, who is rapporteur of the ADI 5312, judges the injunction that challenges Law 2713/2013 of the state of Tocantins;
  11. Inspection and protection of indigenous territories literally abandoned by the Brazilian government be undertaken immediately, as recommended by Articles 231 and 232 of the Constitution;
  12. Than an audit is carried out in the Special District of Indigenous Health (DSEI) of Tocantins;
  13. Improvements in indigenous health care of the indigenous peoples from Goiás and Tocantins, and our cultural diversity and our relationship with deceased relatives, which allows the link to our people to remain intact, be respected;
  14. That the creation of the National Institute of Indigenous Health (INSI), which signifies the privatisation of indigenous health and the end of social control of Care Policy for Indigenous Health, be abandoned once and for all;
  15. That the Secretary of Education for Ceará (SEDUC) respects our right to a differentiated and quality education that respects the organisational and cultural form of each indigenous group and all our demands in improving indigenous education be met;
  16. That the Federal University of Tocantins (UFT) explains how the agreement with the PDA MATOPIBA was signed, through which the Matopiba Institute was established at UFT. We want to know: “What are the bases of this agreement?” and “how will this agreement and institute help protect the Cerrado and the indigenous, quilombola and traditional communities' territories?”
We strongly reject the disrespectful attitude towards indigenous peoples by Ivanezilha Ferreira Noleto, the coordinator for the Special Indigenous Health Districts (DSEI) - Tocantins, for not having attended the III Assembly of Indigenous Peoples of Goiás and Tocantins, and have sent a team that was utterly unprepared and that has no power or autonomy to address our demands and complaints regarding the precariousness of indigenous health;

We also demand a thorough investigation and punishment of the murderers of our leaders. We hold the Brazilian State responsible for the violence and genocide against indigenous leaders of Mato Grosso do Sul, especially the Guarani and Kaiowá leaders. Impunity signifies a stimulus to massacre our people.

Finally, we, the six hundred plus participants of the III Assembly Indigenous Peoples of Goiás and Tocantins, held in Palmas (TO) between 20 and 23 June 2016, call upon Brazilian society to fight with us in the defence of the hard-won indigenous rights achieved in the last Federal Constitution of 1988, in defence of Planet Earth, and with the aim of building a just, democratic and pluralistic society.

Indigenous Peoples of Goiás and Tocantins
Pataxó Hã-Hã-Hãe people - Bahia
Guarani Kaiowa people - Mato Grosso do Sul
Kayapó people - Pará

Palmas, 23 June 2016 
  • 23 June 2016
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