Indigenous electoral candidacies grow 28% in Brazil | International

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Kandara Pataxó, candidate in Santa Cruz Cabrália for the PSD party.Personal file

Increased deforestation, invasions of garimpeiros (seekers of precious stones) illegal in their territories, the paralysis of the demarcations under the Government of Jair Bolsonaro and the advance of the covid-19 in the native communities are the background of the boom of indigenous candidates in Brazil for the municipal elections of next November. The number of candidacies of those who declare themselves indigenous has grown by 28% compared to the 2016 elections. That year, there were 1,715. As of today, according to the Superior Electoral Court (TSE), there are 2,194. With these figures, the indigenous people surpass the candidates who declare themselves oriental (1,959, 0.35% of the total), thus they are no longer the least represented group in the electoral dispute.

The Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB) attributes part of this result to the work of recent years to promote political training in the villages. In 2017, the organization published the letter-manifesto For an increasingly indigenous parliament and, in 2018, the movement of indigenous peoples succeeded in making federal deputy Joênia Wapichana (Rede de Roraima party) the first indigenous woman to win a seat in Congress.

“The loss of the fundamental rights of our peoples begins in the agreements in Parliament, so it is important that we are in those places. But if we want to get there or even to the presidency, we have to increase the base in the municipal sphere ”, affirms Sônia Guajajara, president of the APIB and candidate for the vice-presidency in 2018 together with Guilherme Boulos (Socialism and Freedom Party). In 2016, 167 indigenous people were elected councilors. For Sônia, "it is very little." This year, of the 545,437 candidates registered with the TSE, 0.40% are indigenous, a number close in percentage to the demographic size of the native peoples in Brazil: they are at least 900,000, 0.43% of a population of 209 million inhabitants.

“Our strategy is to reduce the number of candidates to concentrate the votes, because the truth is that we cannot count on the votes of non-indigenous people. And we are not a priority within the parties either. No party, no matter how in line with our agenda, understands our demands well, ”says Sônia.

For this reason, the chief Ramón Tupinambá, 35, candidate for councilor for the PSOL in the city of Ilhéus, in the extreme south of the State of Bahia, says that the ideal would be to have an indigenous party at the national level. "Then we could put on the table our vision of participatory government, something common in the management of our villages, for example," says Tupinambá, who has already presented himself to the municipal elections in 2016 and ran for regional deputy in 2018, without success. both times.

Ramón, a descendant of the first peoples who faced the violence of colonization in Brazil, intends to act in the municipal sphere for the demarcation of the Tupinambá territories in the Ilhéus region, authorized since 2009 by the Federal Supreme Court, but vetoed by the former Minister of Justice Sergio Moro, who in January of this year returned 17 demarcation processes to the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI). "We live in constant confrontation with large real estate companies, which build complexes and residential complexes near our villages," laments Ramón.

Despite agreeing with him that the existing parties do not satisfy the claims of the original peoples, Sônia Guajajara has her doubts regarding the creation of a national indigenous formation. “I'm not convinced that that fixes it. At the end of the day, we are 305 different peoples throughout Brazil, so it is possible that we ended up falling into the logic of the traditional parties ”, he argues.

More women

The 2020 municipal elections will also break the record of women candidates among indigenous people: they have gone from 27.5%, in 2016, to 32.4% of the total, according to TSE data. One of them is Kandara Pataxó, 39, a candidate for councilor in Santa Cruz Cabrália (Bahia), representing the Social Democratic Party. Kandara, the daughter of two indigenous leaders – her mother was the first female chief of her village – has been working in the community since she was 16 years old as a defender of women's rights, demanding that they occupy decision-making spaces in the tribes. Despite that track record, he says the invitation to run was unexpected.

“I come looking for public policies, but I do not come from a public life. I hesitated when the candidacy was proposed to me. I thought: they are going to order to kill me. I don't want to be another Marielle (Franco, a councilor assassinated in 2018) ”, says Kandara, who, after feeling the support of her people, decided to accept the challenge. “Most of us don't understand much about matches. Our fight is not partisan, it is space. They have always used us as fillers in the parties to support non-indigenous candidates who promise to defend our ideas, but when they come to power, we are the first to be forgotten ”, he adds.

It was this dispute for space that motivated Ariene Susui, only 23 years old and a member of the Wapishana people, to run as a councilor in Boa Vista (Roraima) with the Rede party. The city, despite having about 20,000 indigenous people, has never had a representative of the indigenous peoples in its assembly. Ariene says that her community began holding meetings to discuss partisan politics in 2017, when the town wapishana was preparing the candidacy of the deputy Joênia. “When he got the seat, we no longer stopped. It was a necessary flame, ”he says.

Ariene says that partisan politics has never been a priority for indigenous peoples, because they always had to fight for the most essential, their territories. The setback in the rights of these peoples in recent years, however, motivated her to enter politics. “For me, the trigger was to see how the garimpeiros and the loggers are no longer afraid and increasingly invade our territories, precisely because they feel covered by the discourse of the federal government, "he says.

For Val Eloy, 39, who has militated for the Terena people of the Taunay-Ipegue Indigenous Land (Mato Grosso do Sul State) since he was 11 years old, running for election is a way of participating in a government plan in a of the capitals where the ruralist bloc is stronger. She is a candidate for coalition mayor of Campo Grande for the PSOL, along with Cris Duarte. "Here, politicians are not intimidated and they are not ashamed to say that they do not like indigenous peoples," he says.

Coming from a political lineage – his grandparents founded his village and his brother, the lawyer Eloy Terena, managed to get the Supreme Court to force Bolsonaro to adopt protective measures for indigenous peoples against covid-19 – Val did not hesitate to accept the candidacy . In her region, she was one of the leaders who coordinated the construction of sanitary cords in the villages, given the lack of government assistance. "We have lost many lives, but if they have thought that that would make us lower our heads, they are wrong, because what it has done has been to encourage us to show that we are not going to wait any longer for white politics to speak for us," he declares.

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