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Environment

Indigenous tribe lifts protest on key Brazil grain route

FILE PHOTO: The Kayapo indigenous people are seen after the reopening of the BR-163 highway, during a protest against the government measures in the indigenous lands to avoid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Novo Progresso, Para state, Brazil, Aug. 18, 2020. REUTERS/Lucas Landau/File Photo

BRASILIA (Reuters) - An indigenous tribe that blocked a key grain export route in the Amazon last week claiming compensation for environmental damage said on Wednesday they failed to reach agreement with Brazil’s government and would await a court ruling on the dispute.

The Kayapó stopped trucks carrying corn to protest the lack of federal government assistance to protect the tribe from the coronavirus outbreak, and demand overdue reparation money that they have been receiving since paving of the BR-163 highway began a decade ago.

The Kayapó, who had camped out this week on the side of the road without blocking it, returned to their villages hoping a federal judge would decide in their favor in 10 days.

“If the government wants to stop the payments, it can. We are going to wait for the court decision,” their chief Bepronti Kayapó said in a video posted on social media after a meeting with representatives of the federal indigenous affairs agency Funai that ended abruptly after 10 minutes.

According to the Kabu Institute that represents the Kayapó living on two reservations adjacent to the highway, the tribe has received 32 million reais ($5.71 million) over a decade to fund sustainability projects and the collection and marketing of Brazil nuts.

As a result of the roadblock last week that caused truck lines of up to 30 kilometers (18.64 miles), Funai paid out money owed for the first six months of this year, but has delayed settling future payments, the institute said.

Among their grievances, the tribe said it was not consulted on government plans to build the so-called Ferrogrão railway, set to cross part of the Amazon to connect the Mato Grosso grain-producing state to river ports for soy and corn exports.

The railway will run parallel to the BR-163 highway.

Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Christopher Cushing

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