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Now On YouTube: Indigenous Groups Burst Into Brazil’s Congress to Protest Land Rights Bill

BY Jessica McKenzie | Thursday, May 2 2013

Screengrab from political journalist's video of protest on YouTube

After waiting an entire day for an audience with Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies to discuss a controversial bill, hundreds of aboriginal Brazilians bypassed security guards and burst into the session. The disruption was caught live on the Chamber of Deputies TV channel, and later posted on YouTube. A political journalist posted a second, shakier video that shows confusion and chaos during the protest.

The indigenous groups were protesting a bill that would make the National Congress the authority on territorial claims, which they fear would give political advantage to Brazil’s ranchers, who often clash with indigenous groups over land rights. Under the current system, the government agency National Indigenous Foundation conducts studies and makes decisions about land demarcation.

The protests nearly coincided with Brazil’s Indigenous April, which takes place on April 19 in the capital city Brasília. Between 300 and 700 Brazilians representing 76 ethnicities took part in the protest.

Global Voices translates from a YouTube video in which a congressman from the Party for Socialism and liberty defined the protest as an assertion of constitutional rights: “If it is passed by Congress, where the rural lobby have a majority, the demarcation of indigenous land and the creation of conservation units will never again be approved. Therefore, this act of resistance by indigenous people is a warning to the Chamber of Deputies and to the National Congress.”

It seems the protests made an impression. The next day “in light of the occupation by the indigenous people” the Chamber of Deputies granted a six-month hold on the formation of a commission to discuss the proposed amendment, and announced the creation of a work group dedicated to indigenous matters.

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