[Hpn] Anti-poverty & Civil Rights PROTESTS mark Brazil's 500th Birthday FWD

Tom Boland wgcp@earthlink.net
Sun, 23 Apr 2000 11:06:53 -0700 (PDT)

FWD  Reuters - Saturday April 22

Reuters Photo


By Phil Stewart

PORTO SEGURO, Brazil (Reuters) - Brazil marked on Saturday the 500th
anniversary of its discovery by Portuguese explorers, with official
celebrations of its rich cultural diversity tempered by angry protests
against centuries of ill treatment of Indians, blacks and peasants.

More than 60,000 people gathered in Porto Seguro, a palm-lined beach town
about 600 miles north of Rio de Janeiro, where Portuguese explorer Pedro
Alvares Cabral first dropped anchor on April 22, 1500, nearly eight years
after Christopher Columbus made his first landing in the Americas.

Police shot tear gas and stun grenades to break up thousands of protesters
who threatened to push past a blockade, arresting 141 people in a swift
morning crackdown that quickly snuffed out the threat of a mass march on
the town center.

 By midday, the limelight turned to the party and its hosts -- the
presidents of Brazil and Portugal -- who swooped on in Porto Seguro's
restored colonial center to be greeted by colonial music, dances by a local
indigenous tribe and an air show by Air Force stunt pilots.

A regatta of more than 40 vessels also awaited the heads of state, just off
the coast, after replicating the long voyage across the Atlantic to
commemorate the birth of Latin America's largest and most ethnically
diverse nation.

``Looking across at this great mass of ships, I have to think of how lucky
we were that Portuguese had the courage to cross the Atlantic,'' said
Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

``We are not Portuguese; we are much more. There are the indigenous tribes
that are still many ... and the African-Brazilians. But we will have always
have deep ties between our two nations,'' Cardoso said, casting an
affectionate gaze at his Portuguese counterpart, President Jorge Sampaio.

Cardoso also apologized for any excesses taken by the police and even added
that Brazil's landless peasant movement (MST), the most violence-prone
group in a nation known for its peaceful protests, were ``an uncomfortable,
but necessary reminder of the concentration of private land'' in Brazil.

MST leaders had hoped Saturday would give them a chance to draw attention
to vast inequalities in Brazil, where more than half of Brazil's 165
million people live in poverty while 2 percent of the population owns about
half the arable land.

Reuters Photo

  Indigenous tribes planned a peaceful mid-day march to protest their
continued poverty and to voice their opposition to celebrations they say
ignore the racial killings, forced labor and disease that slashed their
population from an estimated 6 million before the Portuguese arrived to
just 350,000 today.

``This is a country where there is still murder of indigenous people, where
there is still no justice. I don't understand why I should celebrate,''
said Marilene Jesus dos Santos, from the Pataxo Ha, Ha, Hae tribe.

Her brother, Galdino, was murdered three years ago this weekend by
middle-class teenagers who doused him with alcohol and set him ablaze while
he slept at a bus-stop in the nation's capital, Brasilia.

Riot troops stormed the Pataxo reservation early Saturday, trying to
silence the budding protest before it could absorb 10,000 members of the
MST, labor groups and the black rights movement. Of 140 arrested, more than
20 were Indians and 30 were Catholic missionaries, according to indigenous
rights groups.


7,500+ articles by or via homeless & ex-homeless people
INFO & to join/leave list - Tom Boland <wgcp@earthlink.net>
Nothing About Us Without Us - Democratize Public Policy