Protestors gathered outside Brazil’s Embassy in the UK last week to demand that Brazil's environment minister Ricardo Salles stop destroying the country's most biodiverse territories and stop threatening its indigenous guardians.
Activists from the UK Student Climate Network, Survival International, Greenpeace and others stood in solidarity with the indigenous peoples of Brazil who are on the frontline of the fight to defend their land and to combat climate change.
They carried placards calling on Minister Salles to “Stop Brazil’s Genocide” and displaying messages of anger and resistance from indigenous people.
President Bolsonaro has virtually declared war on Brazil’s indigenous peoples. His administration is trying to strip them of their autonomy, steal their territories for logging, mining and agribusiness and “assimilate” them against their wishes. This is the worst situation indigenous peoples in Brazil have faced since the military dictatorship.
The number of attacks and invasions of indigenous territories is sky-rocketing, and the Amazon fires - many set by illegal loggers and ranchers - are destroying the forest at an alarming and heart-breaking pace. The survival of whole uncontacted tribes – the most vulnerable peoples on the planet – is at stake.
Minister Salles is central to this assault. He is in favor of using indigenous territories for large-scale plantations and agribusiness, and has denied that indigenous peoples are being attacked. Vast areas of Amazon rainforest continue to be destroyed by fire as he meets with companies with mining and fossil fuel interests.
Minister Salles’ visit to London is part of a tour of Europe, during which he has been met with protest every step of the way.
Indigenous peoples – nature’s best guardians and our best allies to combat the climate crisis – have fought to protect their lands from outsiders for over 500 years and they most definitely won’t stop now. They’re fighting back against Bolsonaro and Salles’ attacks, more united than ever before. As Sonia Guajajara says: “We’re putting our bodies and our lives on the line to try and save our territories.”
Shoulder to shoulder
In January, they led the biggest ever global protest for indigenous rights. In April, thousands gathered in Brasília to take their urgent messages to the heart of government.
On Amazon day activists around the world fought alongside indigenous peoples to make their voices heard, and now indigenous people and their allies are protesting again, to tell Minister Salles and President Bolsonaro to #StopBrazilsGenocide. Our anger only strengthens our will to resist.
APIB, the Association of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil, said: “We have the right to exist. We won’t retreat. We’ll denounce this government around the world.”
Indigenous peoples and their allies have fought shoulder to shoulder and won many victories over the last 50 years. We can win this battle too. Indigenous peoples’ survival, and the survival of all humanity, depends on it.
Sarah Shenker is an activist at Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples.
Image: © Eleanor K. Russell/Survival International.