On October 7, 20 U.S. Members of Congress sent a bicameral letter to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees (HASC and SASC), urging them to include Section 1290 of the House Bill H.R. 6395 in the final 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
Section 1290 would prohibit any U.S. assistance to, or cooperation with, Brazil’s defense, security, or police forces related to the involuntary relocation of Indigenous or quilombola communities (made up of the descendants of formerly enslaved Africans and Afro-Brazilians). With this letter, the 20 Members of Congress are taking critical action to protect the rights of these communities.
This effort, led by Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM), Sen. Bernie Sanders, Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX), and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA), helps to safeguard the rights of Brazilian Indigenous and quilombola communities who have suffered increased rights abuses and verbal assaults since right-wing populist President Jair Bolsonaro assumed office in January 2019. During the presidential campaign, Bolsonaro often used hateful and racist rhetoric against Indigenous and Afro-Brazilians, including the quilombola communities. He promised that, if elected, not one “centimeter of land” would be demarcated for Indigenous or quilombola territory, arguing that these communities were an impediment to the country’s economic development.
Once in office, Bolsonaro proceeded to take steps to dismantle collective land rights, which are protected by the Brazilian Federal Constitution. This has led to increased killings and violence towards these populations, as well as land grabs that contribute to the alarming rate of deforestation experienced in the Amazon region. Brazil is the country with the fourth-largest number of environmental and human rights defenders killed in the world.
The Technology Safeguards Agreement, signed by President Trump and Bolsonaro in March 2019, is one example of harmful cooperation between the two countries. This agreement, which anticipates the expansion of the space launch center in Alcântara, has led Bolsonaro to initiate plans to forcibly displace 800 quilombola families from their constitutionally protected collective lands.
The inclusion of Section 1290 to the NDAA precludes U.S. involvement in the expansion of Brazil’s space base or in any other activity that would lead to the involuntary relocation of Indigenous or quilombola communities.
Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)
U.S. Network for Democracy in Brazil (USNDB)
Movimento dos Antigidos pela Base Espacial (MABE)
Fórum em Defensa do Território Quilombola de Alcântara-MA
Coalizão Negra por Direitos
Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice at the University of Texas at Austin