In the Amazon, the natives choose Lula by boat
On the Rio Negro, a tributary of the Amazon, Brazilians aboard a motorboat make the “L” of Lula with their fingers as they prepare to vote for the former left-wing president this Sunday.
Like many Brazilians, these natives of the Kambeba people vote in a school. But to get there, they need to navigate to the nearby village.
“It’s important for us indigenous people to fight for democracy, vote and elect representatives who respect us,” said Raimundo Cruz da Silva, 42, vice tuxaua (equivalent to a cacique) of the Kambeba.
Wearing a white shirt with vertical stripes of green tribal patterns, he does not hide the fact that he will vote for Lula, the opponent of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro.
The latter has been heavily criticized by many indigenous leaders, including the emblematic cacique Raoni Metuktire, who filed a “genocide” complaint against him at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
Três Unidos, the village of Raimundo Cruz da Silva, home to about 115 indigenous people, is located in a reserve about 60 km from Manaus, the capital of the state of Amazonas (north).
On board four boats, about forty people leave at the same time to vote.
Along the dark waters of the Rio Negro, see lush emerald green vegetation stretching as far as the eye can see before reaching Sao Sebastiao, a village outside the indigenous reserve.
– “View to the Amazon” –
It’s a special day for Taynara da Costa Cruz, 18, who will vote for the first time.
“It’s very important for us young people to vote. We vote with an eye on the Amazon, the indigenous people,” says this young artisan with bright hazel eyes, who wears a necklace and headband made from Amazon seeds.
All Kambeba women wear long white dresses.
Leurilene Cruz da Silva, Raimundo’s sister, also wears two rows of seeds on her hair that look like strings of pearls.
Upon arrival in Sao Sebastiao, this 38-year-old nurse proudly displays her electoral title.
“We need good representatives, it’s an important day. We, the locals, have to show that we can resist,” she says.
Shortly after his election in late 2018, Jair Bolsonaro pledged “not to give another inch” to indigenous land.
He also advocated mining or agricultural exploitation in these areas, which should be reserved for traditional native activities.
Under his tenure, which began in January 2019, average annual deforestation has increased by 75% compared to the last decade.
Lula’s environmental record is far from spotless, but the former president (2003-2010) promised during his campaign that he would create a ministry for indigenous peoples, with an indigenous figure at the helm.
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