Haaland, Sanders, Castro, Johnson Call For Protection of Afro-Brazilian Communities

October 7, 2020
Press Release

Albuquerque, NM – Today, Rep. Deb Haaland (NM-01), Sen. Bernie Sanders, Rep. Joaquin Castro (TX-20), and Rep. Hank Johnson (GA-04), led a bicameral letter to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, calling on them to protect the Afro-Brazilian communities from racist attacks and displacement. 

In March 2019, President Trump and Brazilian President Bolsonaro signed the Technology Safeguards Agreement associated with U.S. participation in space launches in Brazil. That agreement presumed the expansion of the Launch Center by 12,000 hectares along the coastline, which would displace an additional 800 Quilombola families from their land.

In March 2020, President Bolsonaro’s Office of Institutional Security issued a resolution establishing the protocol and procedure for the forced relocation of these families. Only a court-ordered temporary injunction currently stands in the way of this forced relocation. 

“While there may be constructive and promising technology endeavors the U.S. and Brazil can collaborate on, under no circumstances should U.S. taxpayer dollars be used to forcibly relocate these centuries-old indigenous or Quilombola communities,” the members wrote in the letter

For over 300 years, enslaved and formerly enslaved Africans and their descendants have lived in Quilombola communities in Alcântara, Brazil. These Afro-Brazilian residents of these settlements live on communal land and engage in communal agriculture, fishing, hunting, and extraction. In the 1980s, the Brazilian government forced 312 Quilombola families to leave their homes along the Atlantic coastline to make room for the Air Force’s Alcântara Space Launch Center. This forced removal not only stripped these families of the land they were entitled to, but also deprived them of access to ancestral lands, fishing sites, regular sources of food, and overall security.

The members are calling for the inclusion of Section 1290 of the House Bill H.R. 6395 in the final 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Section 1290 would prohibit federal lands from being obligated or expended to provide any U.S. assistance to or cooperation with the defense, security, or police forces of the Government of Brazil to involuntarily relocate the indigenous or Quilombola communities in Brazil. 

“This amendment sends the message that the US Congress will not tolerate more abuses and bullying by Bolsonaro and supporters against quilombolas and indigenous persons. The damage done so far to ethnic groups and the environment is at a tipping point. Protecting such populations means protecting the environment which is in everyone’s interest,” said Gimena Sanchez, Director, The Andes Washington Office on Latin America

The letter was also signed by U.S. Representatives Raul Grijalva (AZ-03), James McGovern (MA-02), Susan Wild (PA-07), Michael San Nicolas (GU), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Juan Vargas (CA-51), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), Jesús Garcia (IL-04), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Jamie Raskin (MD-08), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Andy Levin (MI-09), and Adriano Espaillat (NY-13). 

Full letter is available here