Editors’ Update: Since this piece was published, the Court announced a 90-day deferral to August for their decision on the case.
An open letter to the Brazilian Supreme Federal Court and the National Congress of Brazil:
Indigenous peoples in Brazil are currently being attacked by the Brazilian government on two fronts: Bill (PL) 490/2007, which threatens to cancel Indigenous consultation rights over what happens with natural resources in their territories, and the landmark Supreme Court case of “Marco Temporal”, which threatens to revert the demarcation of Indigenous lands (to be ruled on 30 June 2021). These attacks on Indigenous peoples’ rights go against Brazil’s Constitution and the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Brazil’s current president, Jair Bolsonaro, has publicly said that “It’s a shame that the Brazilian cavalry wasn’t as efficient as the Americans, who exterminated their Indigenous peoples.”
Both attempts to cancel Indigenous rights and other attempts to remove legal environmental protections are part of a larger plan to open the Amazon and other protected areas to further mining, logging, cattle ranching and grain plantations.
Indigenous peoples represent only 4% of the world’s population, but they protect 80% of the world’s biodiversity. In the case of Brazil, they are the last line of defence against the destruction of the Amazon forest and other sensitive areas that are crucial for halting climate change. As Chief Almir Suruí stated “The danger we are facing is not only for Indigenous peoples, but for the future, as this will bring enormous social and environmental devastation.”
Since moral and humanitarian arguments seem irrelevant for the current president and his supporters, the last strategy that can be effective in protecting the Brazilian environment and Indigenous peoples in Brazil is an international boycott. Indigenous peoples in Brazil and the forest urgently need the support of the international community to help Brazilian lawmakers realize the potential negative economic consequences of their current course of action.
The warning of a boycott has already been issued. On 5th May 2021, an open letter signed by 40 international grocers, food suppliers and investment firms, including the US Agricultural Industries Confederation and multi-national grocery chains like Tesco, Sainsbury, Asda, Aldi and Germany’s Metro, urged Brazilian lawmakers to reconsider legislative proposals that further environmental destruction or face the interruption of the use of Brazilian agricultural products, such as meat and soy, in their supply chains. This boycott campaign will grow exponentially if the government is successful in changing Brazilian laws to further destroy the Amazon forest and the livelihoods of Indigenous peoples and traditional communities.
In this open letter, we urge the Justices of the Brazilian Federal Supreme Court, who will vote on the landmark case on 30 June 2021, and the Deputies and Senators of the National Congress of Brazil, who will vote on the Bill (PL) 490/2007 in the next weeks/months, to uphold the rights of Indigenous peoples and Brazil’s commitments to halting deforestation and climate change. We also urge Brazilian decision-makers to consider the devastating consequences of an international boycott campaign of Brazilian products for an already precarious Brazilian economy that has been weakened by the Covid-19 pandemic.
As a global community of signatories, we will watch closely what is happening in Brazil, we will show our support for Indigenous peoples’ rights and protests, and, if necessary, we will implement a boycott of Brazilian products that are associated with the destruction of lands and the cancelation of Indigenous rights.