Brazil: Coordination of the Indigenous Organisations of the Brazilian Amazon (Coordenação das Organizações Indígenas da Amazônia Brasileira, COIAB)
Over 500,000 indigenous people live in Brazil in 208 peoples. Among the larger groups are the Guaraní (46,000), Kaingang (29,000), Yanomami (19,000), Terêna (15,000), Kaiwá (12,000-14,000), Ticuna (12,000) and Guajajára (14,000). Indigenous people make up around 0.25% of the total population (198,739,300). COIAB was established in 1989, and comprises 75 organisations and 165 peoples dwelling in nine federal states in the Amazon region: Acre, Amapá, Roraima, Rondonia, Pará, Maranhão, Mato Grosso and Tocantins. It represents the interests of some 204,000 indigenous people. The tasks and aims of the organisation are support for social, cultural, economic, political and sustainable development as well as for self-determination of the indigenous peoples and organisations of the Brazilian Amazon region
In the Brazilian constitution of 1988, rapid safeguarding of the indigenous territories was assured. This process has increasingly stalled however. The government’s lack of interest is reflected in the fact that the financial means required for demarcation have not been made available. As yet, there is no end to the massacre of the indigenous population, the murder of indigenous leaders, threats, robberies and land invasion in Brazil. In most cases, the perpetrators can still count on impunity. According to a report by the Indigenous Missionary Council (Conselho Indigenista Missionário, CIMI), invasions into indigenous territories have increased by 95%. 109 instances were listed in the report for 1996 alone, which affected 86 indigenous peoples. The invaders were mainly interested in natural resources such as gold and tropical wood. Asian companies have invested 500 million dollars in the Brazilian timber industry and ensured themselves support from the government and local politicians for logging in indigenous areas. Violent clashes between the companies and affected population are commonplace here.
Although Brazil receives millions of dollars of aid to protect the rainforests, destruction of the Brazilian Amazon region continues unhindered. No concessions for the logging of precious woods such as mahogany and virola have been issued since 1996, however 80% of logging occurs illegally anyway. Effective control seems impossible given the authorities’ lack of resources. Major national projects for the construction of dams and new waterways threaten both the ecosystem and the indigenous population. With the help of credits from the World Bank, Bolivia and Brazil constructed a pipeline of over 2,500 km in length for the transport of Bolivian natural gas from Santa Cruz to the Brazilian Atlantic coast. This project caused a great deal of damage in areas of extremely high biodiversity, and will have an inestimable social impact on the indigenous population.
Text updated: Maryhen Jiménez (April 2010)