U.N. Official Notes Criminalization Of Indian Protests In Latin America

By Dialogo
March 31, 2009

Speakers at a forum here organized by the the International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism sounded the alarm against the growing criminalization of Indians' social protests in Latin America, especially in Mexico. The U.N. special envoy for Mexico's indigenous peoples, Rodolfo Stavenhagen, said at the IMADR event in Berlin that while some governments were promoting freedom for minorities, in practice these new policies are not being applied. "Indigenous peoples have a long history of suffering discrimination throughout Latin American countries and many of them are still the victims of racism, injustice, corruption and violent repression," he told Efe. Stavenhagen criticized the fact that attacks on Indians have become "generalized" in countries like Colombia and Mexico - where a month ago two Indian human-rights activists were found murdered - while in others like Guatemala and Ecuador "the situation is not very good either." "The laws that have been passed may be more or less wonderful, but there are big lapses in implementing these statutes," he said. Stavenhagen said, however, that concrete measures are being taken in response to minority complaints, such as the decision this month by Brazil's supreme court to create the reservation known as Raposo Serra do Sol. The new reservation, which occupies some 1.7 million hectares (4.2 million acres), is inhabited by about 18,000 people of the Macuxi, Taurepang, Wapixana, Ingariko and Patamona ethnicities. "We have good and bad situations, although apparently the bad ones are more permanent than the good," he said. Stavenhagen signaled loss of land as one of the chief survival problems of these minorities, whose territories in coastal and wooded areas have been taken over for "exploitation by giant corporations" searching for water and raw materials. The IMADR forum, organized in conjunction with the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, a Gypsy rights group, was held under the title "Maintaining the rights of minorities: lessons and challenges from Europe, Africa, Asia and America." IMADR was founded in Tokyo in 1988 and is a consulting body of the United Nations Economic and Social Council.
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