Brazil Indians camp out in capital 4-16-07

Associated Press Writer

BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) - Indians from across Brazil pitched black plastic tents in front of government buildings Monday to demand that officials discuss with them infrastructure projects they claim could have a negative impact on their ancestral lands.

About 1,500 Indians from 100 tribal groups, some in traditional dress, participated in the ``Free Land Encampment'' on the Esplanade of the Ministries, a grassy strip separating government agencies in Brasilia, the capital of Latin America's biggest country.


Jecinaldo Cabral, a coordinator of Indigenous Organizations in the Brazilian Amazon, said government projects like dams and hydroelectric plants must be discussed with Indians because they could flood ancestral lands and destroy rivers and Indian fishing waters.

Indians also want to discuss government plans to divert the Sao Francisco river, Brazil's fourth largest, he said.

The project is meant to benefit some 12 million people in one of Brazil's most destitute regions by irrigating large areas that are now nearly as dry as a desert. It has generated fierce opposition from environmentalists, who say the diversion could dry up the river for part of the year.

Marcio Meira, who heads the Federal Indian Bureau, or Funai, said the Indians' point of view would always be taken into consideration and that his agency would make sure ``the rights of Indians are always respected.''

The Indians will camp out in Brasilia until Thursday - National Indian Day - when they hope to meet with President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.