APIB Statement in Response to the Murders of Indigenous Leaders in Maranhão

December 10, 2019

On this International Human Rights Day, we share with you a statement from the National Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB) regarding the recent murder of two Indigenous leaders.

The following is APIB’s statement in response to the murders  of Indigenous Leaders in Maranhão (1), presented at Cop25 in Madrid:

Madrid, December 9, 2019 – Earlier this year we, the National Articulation of the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB), the Brazilian coordinating organization for the country’s Indigenous Peoples, held a national campaign called Red January. With the campaign slogan “Indigenous Blood: Not a Single Drop More”, we denounced the launch of the offensive against Indigenous Peoples that began as soon as Jair Bolsonaro was inaugurated President. Immediately upon taking office, he targeted existing policies in support of Indigenous Peoples and overrode them in support of the worst agribusiness interests, all the while fanning the flames of hate speech and prejudice against Indigenous Peoples.

Last Saturday, on December 7, another two Indigenous leaders were murdered: Firmino Silvino Prexede Guajajara, Chief of Silvino Village (Cana Brava Indigenous Land), and Raimundo Guajajara, Chief of Descendência Severino Village (Lagoa Comprida Indigenous Land), both in Maranhão state – where just 35 days ago the Forest Guardian Paulo Paulino Guajajara was also killed.

These crimes reflect the escalation of hate and barbarism inflamed by Jair Bolsonaro’s government, which is attacking us daily, denying our right to exist and promoting the historical illness of racism, which Brazil still suffers from.

We are adrift without protection from the State, which is not fulfilling its constitutional duties. The current administration is acting outside of the law, criminal in its political practice, and is operating in a genocidal way, seeking to expel us from our territories, killing our culture, and making our peoples bleed.

The tension, persecution and lack of safety felt by Brazil’s Indigenous Peoples is increasing. We are being attacked, wiped out and criminalized. An attack on Indigenous life is an attack against humanity, as we Indigenous Peoples of the world defend 82% of global biodiversity. In Brazil, we amount to almost a million Indigenous People. We protect 13% of ecosystems in the whole country. We are among the planet’s richest cultures, represented by 305 peoples and 274 languages, and over 180 cases of peoples in voluntary isolation.

Much is said about fighting climate change, but it must be understood that our survival will guarantee the preservation of what is most important to the future of humanity. Mother Earth cannot handle another 50 years of the current predatory economic model. We know that we are in danger and that there is no more time.

We demand justice, and that measures be taken immediately! We demand that the government authorities investigate the atrocities committed against us and punish the criminals who perpetrated these murders, so that the feeling of impunity doesn’t motivate more criminal actions against our people, the brutal slaughtering of ndigenous lives.

Here at COP25, where we’re participating with a delegation of over 20 Indigenous People from across Brazil, we demand that Indigenous Peoples’ rights be respected in fully implementing the Paris Climate Accord.

To our friends and allies from civil society organizations around the world, we also ask for help. This will be Red December! We call for a global mobilization. Our people in Maranhão state occupied BR 216 Highway, seeking justice for all of the murders, and we need everybody to join the fight, to make it a collective struggle.

This will be the Red December for Indigenous Peoples and peoples of the planet, and our right to exist. Indigenous Blood: Not a Single Drop More!

Rainforest Foundation US was founded 30 years ago to promote the rights of indigenous peoples living in the rainforest and to support them and other forest communities in their effort to protect and defend their territories.



(1) The killings — the third in the last month—take place against the backdrop of growing evidence from the IPCC and the IPBES that when indigenous and other local communities have strong land rights, they outperform all other public and private actors in protecting forests and biodiversity. They argue this is not just a matter of human rights. It is a matter of protecting the planet.

Additional Contacts

For more information, or to speak to an Indigenous leader, please contact Marielle Ramires at +55 61 9635-8257 or Maria Paula Fernandes at +55 21 99716-7529

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Didier Devers
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Didier has been coordinating the USAID-funded B’atz project since joining Rainforest Foundation US in April 2022. He holds a Master’s in Applied Anthropology and a Bachelor’s in Geography. Before joining the organization, Didier worked for 12 years in Central and South America on issues of transparency, legality, governance, and managing stakeholders’ processes in the environmental sector. Prior to that he worked on similar issues in Central Africa. He speaks French, Spanish, and English, and is based in Guatemala.