Brazilian elections

Indigenous candidacies rise by 119% from 2014 to 2022: “We want a cockade caucus”, says Apib

Of all the 186 Indigenous candidacies, most of them are targeting a seat on state legislative assemblies; 45% are women

Translated by: Ana Paula Rocha

Brasil de Fato | São Paulo (Brasil) |
Most of the candidates supported by Apib is from Legal Amazon member states - Wilson Dias

With the highest number of self-candidates since there are elections in Brazil, Indigenous people are contesting the 2022 elections in an unprecedentedly coordinated way. In 2014, 85 candidates declared themselves Indigenous in the Superior Electoral Court (TSE, in Portuguese). Now, with a jump of 119%, there are 186 candidates.

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Of all these candidacies, 30 are supported by the Articulation of the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (Apib, in Portuguese) through the Indigenous Campaign 2022, a project aimed at making politics more "Indigenous", according to members of the movement. With 12 candidates vying for seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 18 vying for seats in state legislative houses, the candidacies released and legally supported by Apib cover 31 Indigenous peoples and all five regions of the country.

According to the Articulation, the 30 candidacies were named by each one of the seven regional organizations that are part of Apib. They are the Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon (Coiab, in Portuguese), the Terena People's Council, the Articulation of the Indigenous Peoples of the Northeast region, Minas Gerais, and Espírito Santo states (Apoinme, in Portuguese), Aty Guasu (Great Assembly of the Guarani people), Yvyrupa Guarani Commission (CGY, in Portuguese), the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of the Southeast region (Arpin Southeast, in Portuguese), and the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of the Southern region (Arpin Sul, in Portuguese). 

“The Indigenous caucus will round up the cattle, mining activities, and illegal loggers out of the [Indigenous] territories,” said Apib about the common banners carried by the entities. “[We will] Retake the environmental protection policies and FUNAI, which has become an anti-Indigenous agency in the hands of fascist military men. [We will] Retake land demarcation and we will put down the lies of the so-called ‘time frame limitation’”, Apib stated.

Reaction to the “destruction package”

The most critical “cattle” to be stopped in the National Congress, currently headed by agribusiness, is the so-called “destruction package”. Composed of a set of bills that are in progress, their nickname explains what they intend to do. They are the "Land Grabbing Bill" (2633/2020), which can regulate the theft of 19.6 million hectares of public land; the "Environmental Licensing Bill" (3729/2004), which makes flexible the authorization of works that damage traditional communities; the "Time Frame Bill" (490/2007), which affects the demarcation of indigenous lands; and the "Mining Bill" (191/2020), which provides for the exploration of ore, hydroelectric plants, and similar activities within Indigenous territories.

There has never been a time when the lives of Indigenous peoples were easy. There are disputes during left-wing, right-wing, and far-right governments. The fact is that now, during the fascist government that we are living in, the need to be in these spaces became more urgent", highlights Kleber Karipuna, executive coordinator of Apib. 

For him, the decision to run for positions within the state apparatus has to do with a reactive process, but also to have "legitimate representations of the indigenous movement, especially in the legislative power".

The choice from 2017 on

The first representative of an Indigenous people to have an institutional position, according to records of the Indigenous movement, was Manoel dos Santos, also known as Mr. Coco, from the Karipuna people. In 1969, he was elected city councilor of the town of Oiapoque (Amapá state). In 1976, cacique Angelo Kretã, from the Kaingang people, got a seat in the Municipal Chamber of Mangueirinha (Paraná state). 

Mário Juruna, a Xavante Indigenous from the town of Barra do Garças, was the first Indigenous person to be elected for a seat in the Chamber of Deputies, in 1983. The feat would only be repeated in 2018 when Joênia Wapichana was the first Indigenous woman to be a federal deputy.

After the military dictatorship, Indigenous peoples actively participated in the elaboration of the Federal Constitution in 1987 and 1988, as showed by the remarkable speech of the then-young Ailton Krenak. Dressed in a white suit and with his face covered in black genipap paste, Krenak addressed a speech in the constituent assembly in defense of the People's Amendment to the Union of Indigenous Nations. In 1996, João Neves, from the Gallibi Marworno people, was elected mayor of Oiapoque and, since then, the number has only grown.

However, it was in 2017 during the Free Land Camp, an annual mobilization in Brasília, things took a turn. While indigenous leaders had rarely occupied institution-wide positions before, the launch of a letter called "For a more Indigenous parliament" expresses Apib's political decision to devote national organization and efforts to the electoral dispute.

"This coordinated action makes evident the necessity - it is not a will, but an extreme necessity - of us becoming more and more a part of these decision-making places which decide on the country", says Kleber Karipuna.  

In 2018, another Apib coordinator, Sônia Guajajara, ran for vice president (Socialism and Liberty Party), alongside Guilherme Boulos. Besides Sônia, another 129 Indigenous people participated in that year’s election. 

 In 2020, the Indigenous Campaign Project starts to stimulate candidacies of Indigenous people in the municipal elections. In this year’s election, the project is stronger. 

"It is a medium and long-term project. We are already thinking about the 2024 municipal elections and the 2026 election", he says. "We also consider that the model of the current political parties, whether on the right or the left wing, does not fully represent us. This is a debate that we have to have internally, as a movement, to find the best way", says Kleber Karipuna.

The cockade caucus

Apib, which defends the formation of a “cockade caucus”, is optimistic about the elections. Besides the reelection of Joênia Wapichana (Network Party) as federal deputy for Roraima state, Kleber Karipuna states that at least another 11 politicians supported by Apib will win a seat in the National Congress. Also, the movement hopes to elect representatives to state legislative assemblies.

"We are hopeful that, with what we are investing in political efforts and articulation, both within the indigenous movement and abroad, we will achieve a positive result in this election", says Kleber. 

Edited by: Thalita Pires e Flávia Chacon