Search

 

Cablegate: Quilombo Communities Serve As Modern-Day Reminder Of

VZCZCXRO1760
PP RUEHRG
DE RUEHSO #0119/01 0711237
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 111237Z MAR 08 ZDK
FM AMCONSUL SAO PAULO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7990
INFO RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 9133
RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION 3337
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES 3089
RUEHMN/AMEMBASSY MONTEVIDEO 2642
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ 3747
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 0694
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO 2338
RUEHRG/AMCONSUL RECIFE 4037
RUEHRI/AMCONSUL RIO DE JANEIRO 8631
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 SAO PAULO 000119

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA/BSC, WHA/USOAS, WHA/PDA AND DRL
NSC FOR TOMASULO
SOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD
USAID FOR LAC/AA
DOL FOR ILAB

E.O. 12958
TAGS: PHUM SCUL SOCI BR
SUBJECT: QUILOMBO COMMUNITIES SERVE AS MODERN-DAY REMINDER OF
BRAZIL'S SLAVERY PAST

REF: A) 07 Sao Paulo 895 B) 07 Sao Paulo 976 C) 07 Sao Paulo 1002

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED - PLEASE PROTECT ACCORDINGLY

Summary
-------

1. (SBU) As Brazil enjoys economic prosperity and growth, the
plight of the Brazilian quilombos highlights that racial and income
inequality persists. Although founded centuries ago, these
communities of Afro-Brazilian slave descendants still serve as an
important part of the country's legacy of slavery and the fight the
Afro-Brazilian community wages for equal treatment today. While
quilombos, poor and without representation, maintain their fight to
get government recognition and benefits, landowners wage a battle to
encroach on these communities' borders. As the disparity between
urban rich and rural poor continues to widen, the government cannot
afford to overlook quilombos as an integral part of its process of
racial and economic integration. End Summary.

Background on Quilombos
-----------------------

2. (U) Brazil's quilombos were communities created by escaped
slaves and free-born Afro-Brazilians away from colonial urban
centers and white-owned plantations. The quilombos represented
communities where African descendants, as well as some indigenous
Brazilians and even a few white Brazilians, lived in a free and
self-governing society until Brazil abolished slavery in 1888.
Brazil's most famous quilombo, Palmares, is located in Serra da
Barriga, Alagoas State. Founded in approximately 1605 (scholars
disagree on the exact date), the community of ten small townships
reached a population of 20,000-30,000 but was destroyed by
Portuguese colonial government militias in 1694. The leader of the
community, Zumbi dos Palmares, is recognized today as a hero and
legend in the Afro-Brazilian community. Zumbi was killed on
November 20, 1695 and Brazil's annual Black Consciousness Day is
celebrated every November 20 in his honor. Today's quilombos are
usually found in the form of small rural towns that are inhabited by
mostly Afro-Brazilian descendants of the original founders. The
quilombos represent the memory of Brazil's long history of slavery
and provide a cultural link to the various African nations from
which Portuguese colonists imported slaves.

3. (U) Most quilombolas, residents of quilombos, work today raising
subsistence crops or making handicrafts. The communities face
serious challenges in health, infrastructure and education.
Research indicates that the standard of living in quilombos is among
the poorest in the country when compared with other Brazilian
communities, rural or urban. Central government statistics indicate
that the majority of quilombola families rely on money distributed
through national social programs. In 2003, several federal
organizations conducted a survey within 144 quilombo communities and
found that 87.5 percent of their inhabitants were relying on public
pensions, and of this figure, 48 percent also received assistance
from other social programs. On Black Consciousness Day in 2007,
President Lula announced the "Social Agenda for Quilombolas" Program
which would include a three-year USD 1.2 billion plan to provide
electricity and funding for cultural activities to quilombos. The
government is also considering expanding its stipend program and
infrastructure support for many of these communities.

Differences Over Defining Quilombos
-----------------------------------

4. (SBU) As part of its broad calls for reform throughout Brazil,
the Constitution of 1988 aimed to bring a measure of social justice
to the Afro-descendent community after years of neglect. One of the
Constitution's methods for achieving this goal was to guarantee land
ownership to descendents of the original quilombos. While a major
achievement for some sectors of the Afro-Brazilian community - an
overwhelming majority live in cities and towns rather than in these
rural outposts - the land recognition process for a quilombo remains

SAO PAULO 00000119 002 OF 003


slow and politically challenging. President Lula's government has
pledged to focus on this issue as part of its larger plan to create
policies encouraging the development of the greater Afro-Brazilian
community.

5. (U) According to the NGO Pro Indian Commission of Sao Paulo, an
organization that is active in both indigenous and quilombo rights,
the Government of Brazil officially recognizes 82 areas throughout
the country as quilombos. The number is significantly smaller than
a Brazilian Institute of Geographic Statistics (IBGE) 2000 survey
finding the existence of 743 quilombos and a University of Brasilia
(UnB) 2005 study that found 2,228 quilombos in Brazil. (The UnB
estimates that 2 million quilombolas are living in areas claimed as
quilombos today.) The Palmares Cultural Foundation, the government
agency responsible for supporting Afro-Brazilian history, recognizes
1170 quilombos. Discrepancies arise about the actual number of
quilombos due to the fact that many communities describe themselves
as such, as opposed to waiting for the slow and lengthy government
recognition process. UnB researchers also believe that the number
of quilombos grew following the 1988 constitutional provisions
because many non-quilombolas moved into the communities to gain land
ownership rights. The main difficulty in recognizing a community is
proving that an area was in fact a quilombo in the past, defining
its boundaries, and identifying the actual descendents of the
original population. The process involves historical and geographic
research, anthropological analysis, and physical evidence, usually
taking a number of years. (Comment: Interlocutors informed Poloff
that the National Institute of Colonization and Land Reform (INCRA),
the agency charged with recognizing quilombos, was much more
efficient during the administration of President Fernando Henrique
Cardoso (1995-2002), spurred by the 1988 Constitution and the
government's efforts to begin pursuing racial equality programs, as
opposed to the current presidency of Luis Inacio Lula da Silva
("Lula") despite his repeated calls for racial equality and his more
populist rhetoric on the issue. End Comment.)

Opposition Muddles Quilombo Recognition Process
--------------------------------------------- --

6. (SBU) In 2003, President Lula signed a decree designed to
streamline the quilombo recognition process. In one of this
presidential declaration's more controversial provisions, the order
accepts self-proclaimed declarations of ancestry as meeting the
requisite proof for land ownership as long as the Palmares Cultural
Foundation certifies. The intent of the presidential decree was to
facilitate the quilombo land rights process, but instead it created
significant resistance from rural landowners, backed by strong
congressional interest. These mostly large-scale farmers, almost
exclusively not of African-descent, perceived that any ownership
claim over productive land could threaten some of their own
properties or areas for potential expansion. The Democratic Party
(DEM), supported by many of these rural landowners, presented an
appeal against the presidential decree to the Superior Federal
Tribunal (STF) contesting its constitutionality and a bill undoing
the executive order in the Chamber of Deputies. Recognizing
opposition to the decree, the government stepped back in 2007 and
made some changes in the way the Palmares Foundation would issue
certification of quilombolan descendent. According to the 2007
modifications, a majority vote within the quilombo must support an
individual's claim of quilombola descent for the Foundation even to
consider the case. Unsatisfied by the alteration, the DEM bloc
continues to press with its STF appeal and House legislation.

Comment
------

7. (SBU) Throughout Brazil's history, quilombos represented
bastions of freedom for African descendants who united to act in
opposition to and at times armed revolt against the cruelty of
slavery. Today, quilombos serve not only as a reminder of this sad
legacy and courageous resistance, but as a symbol of the
inequalities found between Afro-Brazilians and their white
neighbors. The Brazilian Government will have to confront the

SAO PAULO 00000119 003 OF 003


political and economic inequality found in these communities in
order that the entire Brazilian society reaps the benefits of the
current economic expansion. End Summary.

8. (U) This cable was coordinated with and cleared by Embassy
Brasilia.

WHITE

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Werewolf: Gordon Campbell On North Korea, Neo-Nazism, And Milo

With a bit of luck the planet won’t be devastated by nuclear war in the next few days. US President Donald Trump will have begun to fixate on some other way to gratify his self-esteem – maybe by invading Venezuela or starting a war with Iran. More>>

Victory Declared: New Stabilisation Funding From NZ As Mosul Is Retaken

New Zealand has congratulated the Iraqi government on the successful liberation of Mosul from ISIS after a long and hard-fought campaign. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Current US Moves Against North Korea

If Martians visited early last week, they’d probably be scratching their heads as to why North Korea was being treated as a potential trigger for global conflict... More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The Lessons From Corbyn’s Campaign

Leaving partisan politics aside – and ignoring Jeremy Corbyn’s sensational election campaign for a moment – it has to be said that Britain is now really up shit creek... More>>

ALSO:

Another US Court: Fourth Circuit Rules Muslim Ban Discriminatory

ACLU: Step by step, point by point, the court laid out what has been clear from the start: The president promised to ban Muslims from the United States, and his executive orders are an attempt to do just that. More>>

ALSO: