RIO DE JANEIRO, Feb 24 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) -
B razilian indigenous leaders left the Amazon rainforest for Rio
de Janeiro to push for land rights on Friday, the opening day of
the city's famous Carnival, as critics accused campaigners of
politicizing one of the world's biggest parties.
Artists from the Imperatriz Leopoldinense samba school, one
of Rio's traditional dance academies, invited indigenous leaders
to Rio because their theme for this year's float parade is
"Xingu: The Clamor that Comes from the Forest".
Deep in the Amazon, indigenous activists say the Xingu
region of lush foliage and flowing rivers is threatened by
proposed dams, agricultural plantations and infrastructure
projects. Those themes are showcased in the school's floats,
costumes and elaborate dance routines.
Indigenous leader Alessandra Munduruku said she would prefer
to be at home with her people in the rainforest rather than
attending press conferences on the opening day of the Carnival.
But she said outside investors have come into the jungle
where her people live, so the Munduruku have no choice but to
get organized and fight to protect their land.
"We will make Carnival a political event until the attacks
on us and our way of life are stopped," Munduruku told the
Thomson Reuters Foundation during an interview in Rio's Samba
City where floats are stored ahead of festivities.
"We would rather be in the forest, but they (outsiders) are
destroying our land," Munduruku said. "The number of projects in
the Amazon is overwhelming," she said, citing the proposed
Tapajos dam hydroelectric project.
Brazil's government suspended the dam project last year,
citing indigenous rights concerns, but campaigners worry the
project could be resurrected.
New dams would flood the land her people live on, while
hurting the fish populations they depend on for food, Munduruku
Brazil's 900,000 indigenous people make up less than 1
percent of the population, but face higher rates of poverty,
according to government data.
Supporters of new infrastructure projects like dams in the
Amazon say Brazil needs investment, clean energy and
construction jobs. And some critics take issue with samba
schools creating dance routines around controversial topics.
Farmers' groups, for example, say agriculture is being
unfairly targeted by Carnival campaigners who are scapegoating
growers during what should be an inclusive celebration of
"It is unacceptable that the most popular Brazilian
festival, which has the admiration and respect of our sector,
should stage a show of sensationalism and unfounded attacks,"
Brazil's Association of Cattle Breeders said in a statement.
Brazil is the world's largest exporter of beef and chicken.
Farmers say their sector is one of the few bright spots for job
creation and economic growth in a country gripped by recession.
More than one million visitors are expected to attend the
five-day carnival party, generating about $1 billion for the
(Reporting by Chris Arsenault @chrisarsenaul, Editing by Ros
Russell.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the
charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian
news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate
change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org)