Law

Congressmen versus anthropologists

Imagem: Sérgio Vale / Secom The SBPC defends the Brazilian Association of Anthropology, accused by congress of conducting studies that are biased toward indigenous peoplesImagem: Sérgio Vale / Secom

The Brazilian Society for the Advancement of Science (SBPC) has sent a letter to the National Congress of Brazil in defense of the Brazilian Anthropology Association (ABA), after the congressional committee investigating the Brazilian National Foundation for Indigenous Peoples (FUNAI) and the Brazilian National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform (INCRA) threatened to suspend the association’s fiscal confidentiality. The association and other non-governmental organizations are accused of influencing land demarcation processes by conducting studies “to order” and receiving “money from abroad.” The request to lift fiscal confidentiality was lodged on March 8 by federal congressman Nilson Leitão (of the PSDB-MT party), and is awaiting a vote. Leitão, president of the agriculture caucus, argued that “there is strong evidence of a joint strategy involving a network of NGOs sponsored by foreign governments and foundations mobilizing indigenous people to invade private areas and, through acts of violence, pressuring the authorities into demarcating areas where there is no history of indigenous occupation, which is against the 1988 Federal Constitution.” According to Lia Zanotta Machado, a professor at the University of Brasília (UNB) and president of the ABA, the accusations are serious and unfounded, as the agency does not produce studies for FUNAI or INCRA. “We are sought out by the Public Prosecutor’s Office and by judges who act in cases of land demarcation. The association provides lists of experts to help magistrates make their decisions based on scientific information,” she says. She explains that this is a normal procedure and that the final decision rests with the judges. “The association, like several other scientific institutions and universities, receives funding from foreign foundations. ABA projects have been funded by the Ford Foundation from the United States, which also supports seminars put on by the organization.”