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Marcela Leiros – from Cenarium

MANAUS – Representatives of traditional populations, such as indigenous and extractivists, met on Friday, 24, to discuss about the virtual public hearings regarding the environmental licensing of the “Middle Stretch”, as the area between kilometers 250 and 655 of BR-319 is known, in Amazonas. The main concern is that the hearings, which will begin on Monday, 27, do not meet the determinations of prior consultation, free and informed people who will be affected by the paving of the highway.

Present at the meeting were representatives of the BR-319 Observatory, the Council of Extractive Populations (CNS), the Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon (Coiab), the Ministry of Infrastructure and the National Department of Transport Infrastructure (Dnit), discussing the hearings that will begin in Manaus and end in Humaitá on October 1. However, due to the pandemic, the meetings will take place in a virtual way, in disagreement with regulations of the Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization (ILO), the Articles 231 and 232, of the 1988 Federal Constitution and the United Nations (UN) Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.

“We have even discussed a restraining order to prevent the public hearings that already begin this Monday and that is completely impossible for the populations to participate because of the various difficulties that we have been facing with the pandemic and the lack of access for these populations, such as lack of internet. So, there are no conditions to have the participation of the civil society, and without the participation in this process, in no way, it becomes legitimate”, pointed out the CNS general secretary, Dione Torquato.

Still according to Torquato, the governmental bodies’ interpretation of the Convention about who are traditional populations also represents a risk. Riverside and extractivist populations, for example, are not considered communities to be consulted, but are impacted by the paving as much as quilombolas and indigenous people. The secretary-general also criticized the consultation of institutions like Fundação Palmares and Fundação Nacional do Índio (FUNAI), officially considered to be representatives of these people, but which “are institutions completely biased to the government’s programs”.

“We also question this situation and ask the ministry to first establish governance issues, to act in favor of the populations, and to listen to legitimate organizations, like the CNS and Coiab. They do not understand, for example, tribal people as traditional communities, they are not included, according to their interpretations, in this context, and we know that this is purely a government position and this weakens the issue of peoples’ rights”, emphasized the representative of the CNS.

Illustration of the BR-319 highway. (Reproduction/ National Department of Infrastructure of Transports)

Positioning

Last September 16, the BR-319 Observatory – a group of environmentalist Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) – released a position note, based on the same points mentioned by the CNS secretary-general, against the holding of public hearings “at the time and under the conditions suggested and without respect for due legal process, especially with regard to prior consultation, free, informed and in good faith to all communities, indigenous and traditional impacted by the BR-319 highway works.

The Federal Public Ministry (MPF) also issued a recommendation to Ibama, Dnit, Investment Partnerships Program (PPI), Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio), Institute of Environmental Protection of Amazonas (Ipaam) and the State Department of Environment (Sema) suspend all administrative and executive measures in progress under the BR-319, especially in Lot C and the Middle section, until the proper consultation is carried out. In the document, the agency also requested the inclusion, in the consultation process, of peoples who have not yet had their traditional territories regularized.

The reporter contacted the Dnit and the Ministry of Infrastructure by emails [email protected] and [email protected], but did not get a reply as of the publication of this article.