(Brasilia) Thousands of indigenous people are mobilized this week in Brasilia to demand the approval of new reserves on their ancestral lands, during an annual gathering of members of indigenous communities from all over Brazil.

The 19th edition of the “Terra Livre” (free land) encampment, which began Monday and continues until Friday, has the slogan this year “without homologation (of the indigenous reservations), no democracy”.

It is the first large gathering of this type in Brasilia since the return to power in January of leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who has shown himself in favor of this approval, unlike his far-right predecessor Jair Bolsonaro. .

Amid the futuristic buildings of the Brazilian capital, the natives mostly wear traditional outfits, with majestic feather headdresses and body paint.

“We spent a week traveling to come here and what we want is equal rights for all indigenous people, all over Brazil,” 24-year-old Joyce Paumari Hiraka told AFP-TV. , the face decorated with tribal motifs.

A large march of about two kilometers bringing together several thousand demonstrators took place on Monday along the emblematic Esplanade of the Ministries, to the Brazilian Congress, to the rhythm of ritual songs.

Conferences and cultural activities are also organized throughout the week in the Brazilian capital.

“The demarcation of our lands is very important for us, to prevent the intrusions of those who come to destroy the forest,” explains André Guajajara, 33, from the state of Maranhao (northeast).

Indigenous lands, reserved for the exclusive use of indigenous people, are considered by specialists to be an essential bulwark against deforestation in the Amazon, caused in particular by the expansion of mining and agricultural activities.

“Our territory is an island of forests, there is a lot of destruction all around. The government needs to take care of the environment, like we indigenous peoples do,” said Yakari Kuikuro Mehinaku, who lives in a reserve in the Alto Xingu region of Mato Grosso state ( Midwest).

“At least that’s what we hope, because we suffered a lot under the previous government”, he insists, recalling that Jair Bolsonaro (2019-2022) kept his promise not to “give up one centimeter of more” to indigenous lands.

For his third term, Lula, who had previously governed Brazil from 2003 to 2010, created a Ministry of Indigenous Peoples.

The Minister responsible, Sonia Guajajara, recently announced that 14 new reserves would soon be approved, covering a total area of ​​1.5 million hectares.