The press reports that Brazil has declared new indigenous reserves in vast tracts of Amazon rainforest totaling an area equivalent to half the size of Portugal (19,300 square miles).
The areas will enjoy protected status for the 7,000 Indigenous Brazilians living in them, according to the decree signed by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
“We will never be able to do enough for the indigenous people. The debt is historic and we can never reimburse through money, we can only make concrete gestures,” Lula said.
The biggest of the reserves, Trombetas Mapuera, comprises 40,000 square kilometers of forest — practically the same size as the Netherlands or Switzerland. It is home to some tribes which have never had contact with the outside world.
Another reserve goes to the Guarani-kaiowa and Nandeva Indians in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, where violent conflicts over land with farmers are frequent.
The government has two motives in establishing the zones: giving back land to traditional populations, and preserving the Amazon rainforest. Lula’s administration has pledged to cut deforestation by 80 percent over the next decade.
There are now 663 indigenous reserves in Brazil totaling more than one million square kilometers — equivalent to two times the size of Spain.
The National Foundation of the Indians, a government agency, calculates that there are around one million Indians in Brazil out of the total national population of 195 million.