Brazil’s Rousseff vetoes indigenous education project
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Brazil’s Rousseff vetoes indigenous education project

Organizations criticize veto of project that strengthens indigenous languages in schools and universities
Photo: Andreas Kuno Richter
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February 17, 2016

Indigenous organizations and those linked to the cause have expressed their outrage over Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s veto of Bill (PL) 5.954-C/2013, authored by Senator Cristovam Buarque, which seeks to ensure that indigenous communities can utilize their native languages in basic education, in professional education and in higher education, as well as their own processes of learning and assessment that respect their distinct cultures.

The project, which would enable concrete application of rights already assured to Indigenous Peoples in the Constitution of 1988, was vetoed by the office of the president on the grounds of being “contrary to public interest”.

In message number 600, issued by the Casa Civil on December 29, 2015, the Government states that,

Despite the merit of the proposal, the provisions include, on one hand, too broad an obligation and implementation difficulties because of the great variety of indigenous communities and languages ​​in Brazil.

In a memorandum (PT), Amazon Cooperation Network (RCA – Rede de Cooperação Amazônica), which consists of thirteen indigenous organizations and supporters of the Indigenous Peoples, said the presidential message was an “Explicit government position that considers cultural diversity and indigenous linguistics as a problem rather than an asset for our country, in frank disagreement with what our Constitution establishes”.

The RCA also states that, after the veto of a bill that would strengthen the differentiated education and enhance the languages ​​and traditional knowledge of Indigenous Peoples, as guaranteed by the Constitution, it is now up to the Federal Government to introduce a new bill that meets the indigenous demand for improvements in legislation and in public policy.

The Latin American Institute of Cultural Arts and History (ILAACH) of the Federal University of Latin American Integration (UNILA) also spoke out (PT) against the veto by Dilma, classifying it as a “total disrespect” to the achievements of Indigenous Peoples for a specific and differentiated education.

“The Casa Civil demonstrates preoccupation with the quantity of indigenous peoples existing in Brazil, as if cultural and linguistic diversity would be detrimental to the public purse. Perhaps that is one of the reasons that led the Casa Civil to paralyze the demarcation of Indigenous Lands,” says the statement released by UNILA. “This attitude is a demonstration of a gigantic retrogression with regard to progress towards a multicultural and plurilingual country.”

The Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI) also issued a statement (PT) repudiating the veto of President Dilma Rouseff. The entity, which calls for the annulment of the presidential veto of PL 5.954-C, questions the justification presented by the government for the decision to bar the project.

“One must ask whose interests and what public are opposed to the presence of indigenous languages ​​in educational institutions, because everyone would benefit from it, since every Indian language contains a unique way to conceive of and think about the world. In the same way, we question the impossibility of incorporating the particularities of each indigenous society in the processes of educational assessment, unless the objective is the implanting of a homogenizing education that intends to erase the diversity constituted by each of the forms of education of each of the indigenous people,” says the note.

In an interview with the Instituto Socioambiental (ISA), anthropologist and linguist Bruna Franchetto, of the National Museum of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, stated:

The veto is to give the fatal blow to an education already fragile and limited. Diversity is an asset, but it is not for the lackeys of the [model of] development. There is no explicit, adequate and coherent linguistics policy in Brazil. The training courses for indigenous teachers, which proliferate in Brazil, completely ignore the existence of the indigenous languages ​​or treat them with indifference and profound ignorance.

“Do not veto our right”

In January, students of the Professional Masters in Sustainability for Traditional Peoples and Lands (MESPT), of the University of Brasilia (UNB), also demonstrated (PT) against Dilma Rousseff’s veto.

The MESPT includes indigenous, quilombola, students from traditional peoples and supporters of the causes of Indigenous, Quilombola and Traditional Peoples, who ask that the government “Review its position regarding Bill No. 5.954/2013; Consider the technical opinions elaborated; Consult the jurisdictions of national indigenous representation, with respect to Convention 169 of the ILO. Do not veto our right”.

The Federation of Indigenous Organizations of the Upper Rio Negro (FOIRN), in conjunction with the Indigenous Teachers’ Association of the Rio Negro (APIARN), the Commission of Indigenous Teachers of the Upper Rio Negro (COPIARN), the Coordinators of the Indigenous Schools of the Upper Rio Negro and the Indigenous Pedagogical Advisors (APIs), also issued a letter of repudiation (PT).

In that letter, the indigenous entities criticized the lack of consultation with the peoples by the government – contrary to Convention 169 of the ILO – and the lack of commitment to the democratic achievements of Indigenous Peoples in Brazil, soliciting the government to revoke the veto of PL 5.954-C.

“Brazil needs to decolonize, it needs to recognize the presence of linguistic and cultural diversity of the country. Brazil needs to respect the rights assured by law, not only of the indigenous peoples, but of all Brazilians”, state the Indigenous Peoples of the Rio Negro.

This article was originally published in Portuguese at CIMI. Translated to English by M. Kidd and edited by IC.

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