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Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Brazilian Indians appeal for help to save their Amazon forest home
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 Two Brazilian Indians have made a desperate plea to the UK government for help to save their Amazon forest home. Jacir José de Souza and Pierlângela Nascimento da Cunha, who are from the Makuxi and Wapixana tribes, met Liberal Democrat MP Martin Horwood at the Houses of Parliament and officials at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on Wednesday. They also hope to meet Pope Benedict XVI as they tour Europe in a bid to save their ancestral lands, which are under threat from large-scale farmers. Three aid workers from CAFOD who first met Jacir and Pierlângela when they visited Brazil in 2006, travelled to Westminster to be with them on Wednesday as a sign of solidarity. For decades the Makuxi and Wapixana tribes, along with three other native peoples, have called on the Brazilian government to protect their territory, known as Raposa Serra do Sol, which is in the state of Roraima in the north of the country. The Brazilian president, Luis Inácio "Lula" da Silva, granted official recognition to the Indian communities' ownership of the territory in 2005 ­ but a group of powerful landowners, who occupy a significant part of it, refuse to leave the area. The Roraima State government supports the farmers and is petitioning the Brazilian Supreme Court to give them a large piece of the Indians' land. In recent months, the tribes have come under attack from farmers who have shot and wounded people, burned bridges and thrown a bomb into one of the communities. CAFOD's Westminster Manager, Tony Sheen, Plymouth Manager, Simon Giarchi, and Hexham and Newcastle Manager, Anne-Marie Hanlon, saw the suffering of the indigenous people first-hand when they were in Brazil. Simon said: "I've seen bullet holes in people's bodies, brands on peoples' backs from scorching hot irons and have met people whose brothers and friends were beaten to death. This has to stop." CAFOD has supported indigenous groups in the Roraima region for many years and helped fund the Indians' visit to the UK. The aid agency works in partnership with the local diocese and the Indigenous Council of Roraima (CIR) which Jacir founded, to help indigenous groups secure the right to live on their traditional land. CAFOD's Head of Latin America, Clare Dixon, said: "CAFOD has been supporting indigenous groups in the Roraima region for many years to defend their lands, their culture and their livelihood. Now things have reached crisis point. We are standing shoulder-to-shoulder with CIR to show the British and Brazilian Governments that people living in England and Wales do care about what is happening on the other side of the globe and they should too." CIR is asking supporters to send letters to the Brazilian Government and Supreme Court demanding they uphold the constitution on indigenous land rights. For more information go to www.cafod.org.uk/landpetition
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