The lack of free elections, the persecution of those who criticize the government, systematic repression against demonstrators and a judiciary unresponsive of the government’s abuses are only a few reasons why Venezuela deserves the label of dictatorship. While the disruption of the rule of law affects the population in general and the indigenous peoples specifically in Venezuela, indigenous and afro-descendant (quilombolas) peoples face institutional abuses, and a wave of violence and impunity in Brazil that fits into the reality of those countries with no rule of law.
As of July 2017, 33 environmental activists had been killed in Brazil, most of whom are indigenous. With 50 deats in 2015 and 49 in 2016, Brazil has held, for the past three years, the first position in the list of countries with the highest number of environmental activists killed. These deaths usually follow the same pattern: local authorities with ties to landowners who have usurped quiolombola and indigenous traditional lands sponsor the attacks and enjoy almost complete impunity. While the Bolivarian National Guard (Guardia Nacional Bolivariana) abet armed civilians who kill demonstrators in Venezuela, militias financed by landowners assault and execute members of communities claiming their territories in some Brazilian states.
Through presidential decrees passed some weeks ago, Michel Temer validated the unlawful occupation of several nature reserves by large-scale farmers. He also annulled environmental fines and granted amnesty to outstanding pension debts owed by persons in the agribusiness industry. The parliamentary group linked to agribusiness, known as “rural front” (bancada ruralista), paid Temer back by halting the Attorney General’s request to start criminal proceedings against him, with charges of racketeering and of receiving illegal electoral donations.
In this context of anti-indigenous symbiosis between the Executive branch and Congress, the Brazilian Supreme Court (Supremo Tribunal Federal – STF) issued a ruling on August 16th that spilled a drop of hope in an ocean of pessimism. The decision rejected two lawsuits filed by the state of Mato Grosso, in which it requested indemnity due to the creation of the National Reserve of Xingu and the reserves of Nambikwára and Parecis, inhabited by several indigenous communities. The suits alleged an illegal expropriation to the prejudice of the Mato Grosso local state, but its actual purpose was hindering the acknowledgment of indigenous land by the Federal Union. It should be stressed that Mato Grosso is one of the Brazilian states where the “bancada ruralista” have captured Congressional representation and the overall local political structures. Indeed, the current Ministry of Agriculture, Blairo Maggi, is one of the biggest landowners in said state, and is also a faithful representative of the “bancada ruralista” in the national government.
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