Washington, D.C. – Alessandra Korap Munduruku, a prominent Indigenous community leader from the Brazilian Amazon, will be recognized with the annual RFK Human Rights Award on Thursday, October 22nd. This global recognition comes among mounting threats targeting her and the Munduruku community, driven by illegal miners, loggers, and land grabbers, in a climate of impunity explicitly encouraged by the Bolsonaro government.
The Robert F. Kennedy 2020 Human Rights Award’s announcement commends Alessandra for “her work defending the culture, livelihoods, and rights of Indigenous peoples in Brazil,” while citing the manifold threats faced by the Amazonian forest defenders. This recognition arrives at a critical moment, as Indigenous peoples resist the Brazilian government’s efforts to open their territories to destructive development.
In recent years Alessandra has become a key voice among Brazil’s Indigenous leadership, striving for the recognition of territorial and women’s rights from local to national levels. Hailing from the Amazon’s Tapajós River basin in Brazil’s Pará state, she has confronted multiple threats and direct intimidation, including the break-in and robbery of sensitive information from her home in late 2019.
Alessandra’s situation is emblematic of the serious threats facing Brazil’s hundreds of Indigenous peoples, both collectively and individually. Indigenous territories and communities – in the Amazon and beyond – are under assault from government-sponsored projects such as dams, waterways, ports, and railways, and illegal activities such as mining and logging. Community leaders who denounce the environmental destruction are singled out and targeted with threats, criminalization, and often lethal attacks.
The recognition of Alessandra’s courageous work follows the announcement of the Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Award for the Association of Brazil’s Indigenous Peoples (APIB). Alessandra and APIB’s Executive Coordinator Sônia Guajajara are just two of a growing wave of extraordinary Indigenous women leaders who have stepped up in recent years and as the situation worsens under Bolsonaro.
Amazon Watch has worked closely with Alessandra since the Munduruku’s successful campaign to halt the construction of the São Luiz do Tapajós megadam in 2016. More recently, the organization worked to help ensure her safety, given that a central component of any effective strategy to protect the Amazon rainforest must be strengthened human rights protections for its grassroots guardians.
Alessandra Korap Munduruku made the following statement:
“I’m humbled to be this year’s Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award winner. To have the additional backing and support of Kerry Kennedy and her entire organization, especially during the pandemic, will make all the difference as we continue to fight for our rights, including the demarcation of our lands to ensure that Indigenous peoples have their autonomy, and for the fight of women who are also the strength of the resistance.”
Christian Poirier, Amazon Watch Program Director, made the following statement:
“Alessandra is a river protector, a true forest guardian, and a fierce defender of her people. For simply standing up for the rights of the Munduruku, she is in the crosshairs of criminal networks operating with the acquiescence of the Bolsonaro regime. This award increases her international profile and offers prominent political support for her and her peoples’ critical work to defend the Amazon rainforest. The threats she faces are real and demand concerted attention of Brazilian and international civil society. The murder of Berta Cáceres taught us the importance of accompanying and defending leaders like Alessandra.”